Powering through challenges | Sunday Observer
Government marks one year in office

Powering through challenges

15 August, 2021

Continued from last week

In order to cut down expenditure on the import of medicinal drugs, the Government has taken steps to increase the local drug production through the State Pharmaceutical Corporation.

The Corporation currently manufactures drugs in excess of its maximum production capacity. This year, 65 drugs will be manufactured locally which includes seven new drugs. Of these, 36 drugs are produced with raw materials sourced locally.

Preliminary procurement work has completed to commence construction of three pharmaceutical factories in Millewa in Horana. This will be an anti-cancer, orthopaedic and general pharmaceutical factory. This way the Government aims to meet the domestic drug demand by producing them locally.


In the midst of this, the Government paid special focus on agriculture and food security by continuing to provide relief to farmers and revive the agricultural sector.

A guaranteed price was provided for paddy and fertilisers were provided free of charge.

Tea, coconut, rubber and cinnamon fetched good prices in the market. With regard to tea, the Government did not give into the opinion that our tea should be mixed with imported tea to compete in the world market.

Rather, Sri Lanka kept its authenticity and quality which resulted in factories earning about Rs. 83 more per kilogram than in 2019. Compared to other countries, Ceylon tea received the highest value of US$ 4.82 per kilo in foreign exchange.

In addition, a ban was imposed on the import and re-export of agricultural products such as pepper and turmeric that can be grown in Sri Lanka.

Even though there were shortages in the beginning, the President’s vision became a success as these crops were grown within Sri Lanka and local markets began to sell Sri Lankan products. With the ban of ethanol imports, the sugar industry too began making profit.

A program was initiated to rehabilitate 14,000 tanks throughout the country to uplift the agricultural sector by enabling the cultivation of thousands of unutilised and abandoned paddy fields.

Cultivable lands are being provided to landless families and so far, over 20,000 families were given an acre of land. Also, a program is underway to issue legal deeds to over 100,000 traditional settlers.

Work on 10 selected irrigation projects is being expedited. Work has commenced on the North Central Province Main Canal and the North-Western Province Main Canal.

Work on the left bank canal of Minipe is nearing completion while the Kumbukkan Oya Reservoir Project will provide drinking water to the Moneragala District.

Drinking and irrigation water needs in the Mannar and Anuradhapura Districts and the Eastern Province are being met through the Lower Malwathu Oya and Mundeniyaru Irrigation Project.

Chemical fertiliser ban

A key decision to revive the agriculture sector was the ban on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Even though this is not a popular decision, the Government forged ahead with it considering the long-term benefits for the country and future generations.

The widespread use of chemicals has resulted in soil and water contamination and increasing the risk of diseases.

The ban is not a sudden decision as the vision for a ‘revolution in the use of fertiliser’ was strategised in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto – ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor’ as follows: “the existing fertilizer subsidy scheme will be replaced with an alternative system, convert traditional farming villages into users of only organic fertiliser, initiate a program to produce all essential fertilisers domestically, and produce bio-fertiliser and organic fertiliser of high standard using the forests and wetlands.”

The Government ensured that the farmers were not left high and dry. Prior to the decision, stocks of fertiliser required for the forthcoming season were imported.

A total of 300,000 metric tons of fertiliser required for one and 1/2 million hectares of cultivated land were distributed and about 8,000 metric tons of organic fertiliser were distributed.

In the long run, this unpopular decision would one day be a game changer in agricultural exports as Sri Lanka would have a new brand name of being 100 percent organic, fetching the best rates in international markets for our farmers.

Port City Colombo

Port City Colombo is a much looked forward project among the business community locally and internationally, who believe that this would be a game changer in Sri Lanka’s economic landscape.

The biggest achievement for the Government in this regard was the passing of the Port City Bill and the appointment of the Port City Economic Commission with all-Sri Lankan Commissioners to spearhead the project.

Through this, it is expected to make Port City Colombo an attractive investment zone in the region, generating 200,000 temporary jobs during the 25 year construction period and 83,000 jobs when it’s completed and fully operational.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa assured in Parliament that a majority of these jobs will be secured for Sri Lankans.

A total of 269 hectares of land is added to Sri Lanka. The Cabinet and Parliamentary Finance Committee approved a US$ 400 million commercial building with two towers as the first investment for the financial city.


With the closure of schools island-wide due to Covid, the Government took measures to adopt technological solutions to provide unhindered education to the student population.

Facilities were provided to conduct distance learning whereby thousands of schools were given fiber optics internet connections. More schools will be provided with this facility this year.

Plans are afoot to elevate 1,000 more schools as national schools and at least three schools in each Divisional Secretariat Division have been re-classified as National Schools. Funds have been allocated to improve facilities and standards. With regard to university education, the number of students admitted to universities annually has increased by 30 percent.

An additional 10,000 students were enrolled in universities last year. This is the highest number admitted additionally in a single year since Independence.

A total of 10,000 new students are to be enrolled for technology-based degrees at open universities this year with on-the-job education from the first year.

The Gampaha Wickramarachchi University of Indigenous Medicine joined the national university system as the first Indigenous Medical University in Sri Lanka. The University of Vavuniya is scheduled to be the second university to open this year.

Also, the Siddha Medical Units of the Universities of Jaffna and the Eastern Provinces will be upgraded to University Faculties and the Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan Faculty of Performing Arts will be established at the University of Jaffna.

Cabinet approval was granted to build a National University of Plantation and Agriculture by amalgamating all related research institutes.

Funds are allocated to build new faculties in all universities to increase the number of students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) streams. An allowance of Rs. 5,000 is approved from the budget for students studying in technical institutes.


The Government has commenced the construction of 7,000 small rural solar power plants with a capacity of 100 kilowatts through local investors, which will add 750 megawatts to the national grid.

This is under the ‘Power Plant for a Village’ program to fulfill the pledge that by 2030, 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s energy needs will be generated from renewable energy sources.

Construction work has commenced on the Mannar Wind Power Plant with a capacity of 100 MW and the Poonaryen Wind Power Plant with a capacity of 240 MW.

The 120 MW Uma Oya and 35 MW Broadlands Power Plant will be completed this year. The Moragolla Hydro Power Plant with a capacity of 31.5 MW will be completed in 2023.

The first project to generate electricity from urban solid waste was launched at Kerawalapitiya. In addition, the construction work of the first natural gas power plant in the country with a capacity of 300 MW has commenced at Kerawalapitiya and 300 MW of capacity will be added to the power generation system by 2023.

A capacity of 340 MW has already been added to the national grid through 30,000 roof-top solar panels. Steps will be taken to install solar panels on the roofs of Government offices with the loan facility of Rs. 20,000 million signed with India in June. In addition, 100,000 impoverished families will be provided electricity free of charge.

Road development

The Government has revived the previous expressway development programs initiated during the era of President Mahinda Rajapaksa but stalled during the previous regime.

As such, the Mirigama-Kurunegala section of the Central Expressway is being completed. The Kadawatha-Mirigama section is set to complete by the end of 2023 and the Dambulla- Kurunegala section will commence.

The section of the road to Kandy from Pothuhera to Galagedara has also commenced and will be completed by 2023 whereby people will be able to travel from Colombo to Kandy on the Central Expressway by 2024.

The expressway from the Kelani Bridge to Athurugiriya via Rajagiriya is being constructed on concrete pillars and the expressway from the Kelani Bridge to Port City will conclude by 2023. The new Kelani Bridge with six lanes and its affiliated junction is expected to open this year. In addition, about 25,000 km of the 100,000 km road construction program is almost complete. Five flyovers in Colombo and one in Kandy are being constructed to address the traffic congestion. The construction of nine multi-car park buildings has also begun.

The first phase of the Ruwanpura Expressway has commenced and will be completed by the end of 2023.


The Government resumed the rapid implementation of housing development projects that were successfully carried out before 2014.

More than 20,000 houses are under construction and another 10,000 will be constructed before the end of this year. About 7,000 flat units are being built for low-income earners while construction has commenced to build 3,000 flat units for middle-income earners. Under the ‘One house per one village’ program, 14,000 rural houses are being constructed.

Such are some of the key highlights in the one year journey of the Government amid a global pandemic.

The evidence speaks volumes of what it has achieved in a short period and Sri Lankans have reason to be hopeful of the future that under the President and the Prime Minister, Sri Lanka is set to achieve more in the years to come.

(Sources: President’s speeches and PMD press releases)