SL-Philippines joint council to boost economic cooperation | Sunday Observer

SL-Philippines joint council to boost economic cooperation

Most foreign State leaders’ visits result in boosting friendly ties and bilateral cooperation.

The special significance of President Maithripala Sirisena’s official visit to the Philippines concluded yesterday was that he succeeded in obtaining loan facilities to the tune of US$ 445 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

President Sirisena made his first visit to the ADB Headquarters in Manila last Thursday and held discussions with ADB President Takehiko Nakao.

After discussing development challenges faced by Sri Lanka and the ADB’s role in helping address them, President Sirisena and Nakao signed three loan agreements worth $ 455 million for projects in higher education and transport and a technical assistance loans in the urban sector.

The ADB will maintain a strong pipeline of projects ($ 800 million a year) in the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS), 2018–2022, compared to $500 million a year in the previous CPS period.

President Sirisena said Sri Lanka highly values the assistance provided by the ADB, to its development plans. Nakao commended Sri Lanka’s achievements in reducing poverty to low single digit levels, and improving human development.

Sri Lanka needs to seek higher growth to achieve the goal of becoming an upper middle-income country by 2025, he said.

He acknowledged the government’s fiscal consolidation efforts, supported by an International Monetary Fund program, that resulted in a primary surplus in 2017 for the first time in 63 years. “The government has taken steps to strengthen the country’s public finances and it is essential to continue those measures to reduce debt,” said the ADB President.

“The ADB’s technical and financial assistance to support the development of Capital markets and small and medium enterprises are aligned with the government’s reform priorities,” said Nakao.

He commended the steps by the government to improve the business climate, increase exports, and attract foreign direct investment. He stressed the need to continue the reforms to draw foreign investors who can bring knowledge and new practices.

Nakao said Sri Lanka should strengthens its linkage to regional and global value chains. The ADB’s CPS for Sri Lanka focuses on building high quality infrastructure in the transport, energy, and urban sectors by expanding investments in areas such as railways, wind and solar power generation and economic corridors.

The ADB is broadening its support for higher education and health centers. Projects in rural areas, such as, the Mahaweli Water Security Investment Program and Integrated Road Investment Program will support farming communities and help boost rural incomes.

The ADB’s private sector operations will provide loans, equity investments, or guarantees for public and private banks, non-banking financial institutions and corporations.

Sri Lanka was a founding member of the ADB in 1966. Since its first loan to the country in 1968, The ADB has supported Sri Lanka’s economic transformation with assistance worth $9.8 billion, including, concessional loans and technical assistance.

The ADB has worked in the country in various sectors, including agriculture and natural resources, rural development, transport, energy, urban infrastructure, education and skills, financial services, private sector development and public sector management.

During President Sirisena’s visit to the Philippines, agreements for cooperation in defence, agriculture and education were signed. The five MOUs signed are: the MoU on Defence and Military Education and Training and Exchanges of Defence and Military Delegations (between Philippines’ Department of National Defence and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence); the MoU on Cooperation in Agriculture, Fisheries and Related Fields; the MoU on Academic Cooperation in Higher Education (between Philippines’ Commission on Higher Education and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply, and Higher Education); the MoU between Philippines’ Department of Tourism and Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs and the MoU between the University of the Philippines Los Baños and Sri Lanka Council for Agriculture Research Policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Livestock, Irrigation, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development. The agreements signed by the two countries in the past include, the Exchange of notes, on the proposal to abolish non-immigrant visa needs for citizens of the two countries, signed in 1972, an Air Transport Agreement signed on December 18, 1976, with date of commencement in 1980, a Cultural Cooperation Agreement in 1976, the Executive Program of Cultural Cooperation signed in 1981, the Trade Agreement signed in 1992, which provided for ‘Most Favoured Nation’ treatment in trade and economic relations between the two countries, and the Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation with Respect to Income and Taxes signed in 2000.