Northern resurgence in full swing
The Jaffna Library after it was rebuilt
The war on terrorism instigated by the LTTE not only destroyed lives
and limbs of thousands of people, but also damaged economic
self-sufficiency of the Northerner.
The North East boasted of the best economic zone in Achchuweli and
there were many industries that provided raw material and machinery for
agriculture, fisheries and many other sectors. It was said that the tire
rebuilding factory that was in Jaffna was so efficient that motorists
used to send tires from Colombo by train to be rebuilt in Jaffna.
The banking sector too was very vibrant while the Northerner was
self-sufficient in both agriculture and fisheries and the excess was
sent for Colombo.
Until the troubles erupted in the 1980s, the region's agricultural
production compared favourably with that of other parts of the country,
specifically rice, vegetables, fruit, and other cash crops. During the
last two decades, however, farmers, organisations collapsed, irrigation
systems were damaged, and displaced populations have experienced severe
barriers to enter the market.
Market full of goodies
Fisherfolk back to business
Fish, grapes and onions from the North were some of the much looked
forward to products from Jaffna. The North and East were two key
provinces that contributed highly to the national economy and GDP.
However, Prabhakaran and the LTTE were not keen on maintaining this
pattern and were only interested in gathering arms and destroying the
livelihoods of the people and taking the country backwards.
The result was the closure of the industrial zone and other factories
with the end result being the breaking up of the self-sufficiency of the
Northerner and making them financially at a loss and forcing them to be
dependent on handouts.
However, with the end of the conflict and life getting back to
normality, the Northerners woke up quickly and are now rebuilding their
lives slowly but surely, trying to make the area a self-sufficient
region once again.
One of the key factors that slowed the agricultural sector, was the
closure of the market due to breaking up of transport from Colombo to
Jaffna. The second factor was the limitation of land due to landmines.
Another factor was the taxes that were taken by the LTTE. The disruption
of the train service too was a major negative factor for both
agriculture and fisheries sectors.
Whenever goods were transported to Colombo, the LTTE taxed them at
three points while the Army too checked vehicles for suspicious items
resulting in the delay of cargo reaching Colombo. Due to this it took
more than 24 hours for cargo to reach Colombo and many items could not
be sent as they had perished on the way.
With the ending of the war, the first benefit the Northern
entrepreneur got was the zero taxes.
With the clearing of landmines once again, land was available for
them to use in agriculture and for dairy farms.
The embargo on fishing too was taken off, giving fishermen a larger
area in the sea and thereby giving them additional revenue.
One must also thank the private sector, Chambers and some NGOs who
came forward to assist by way of providing the Northerners with new
technology and small and medium sector machinery at concessionary rates.
Private companies such as CIC have already started building two new
plants for the manufacture of dairy products and vineyard while the real
estate sector too is picking up, thus reaping the benefits of peace.
The State banks too played a major role in this regard, extending a
special credit line.
The government on its part got about rebuilding the much needed
infrastructure thus helping the Northerner to get back to business.
Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa pointed out that 60
percent of aid given by lending agencies had been diverted for the
development of the North and East of Sri Lanka which was devastated by
the 30-year-prolonged war against terrorism.
The government has accorded maximum support for immediate development
and resettlement of IDPs in the North.
Recently the Government announced that President has wanted all
internally displaced persons in the North to be resettled in their
respective places as soon as possible.
Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa has shouldered the
responsibility of gearing up the process to meet this target and
according to latest information Government Agents, top civil authority
of the northern districts of Vavuniya and Mullaitivu have launched this
program to be completed within a specified time period.
The launching of the construction of the new Regional Agricultural
Centre in Nedunkerni took place under the patronage of Minister
Rajapaksa. The work is undertaken with foreign assistance.
The rail link is being rebuilt while the main road which still is a
major concern has caught the government's attention. The Ceylon
Electricity Board (CEB) too came to the fore providing speedy power
lines and intensifying the rural electrification process.
The Board of investment realising the potential in the region, has
opened a regional branch mainly to tap the Tamil Diaspora. Both the
Achchuweli and Trincomalee economic zones are being reopened.
In a bid to attract Investors, trade fairs are being conducted every
three months which is a timely move.
Public transport despite the bad roads has picked up with over 12
air-conditioned luxury buses taking off from Colombo and Jaffna each
night. The SLTB also operates over 10 buses per day to Jaffna. There is
going to be another road from Colombo through Negombo, Puttalam, Mannar,
through Wilpattu to Sangupiddi bridge to Jaffna which will be the West
The Sangupiddi Bridge too was another landmark project carried out by
Land prices have picked up, while there are over 5 to 10 new vehicles
and tractors sold every month.
Two of the major projects that are on the way are the KKS Harbour and
Palali airport expansion according to international standards. The
Indian government is lending a helping hand in this regard.
The opening of the Oluvil harbour which can be used for fisheries and
international cargo by the end of the year would usher prosperity to the
Eastern province as it would bring in more investors.
Tourism potential for the region is huge and this is an area that
would be a major thrust in the future.