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Saturday, 5 September 2009

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Government Gazette

A worthy example

There are those who believe that Sri Lankans cannot undertake any major project without foreign expertise and funding. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thinking that could keep us stagnant in the development sphere. This Government has undertaken several projects which do not depend on foreign expertise or assistance. The Moragahakanda irrigation project is one of the largest such projects.

This Government succeeded in liberating the North and the East from the LTTE, another task that many believed was impossible. Now it faces the Herculean task of reconstructing the two provinces. This is much easier in the East, where most areas were under Government control in any case. The North, however, is a different story. There is virtually no infrastructure in many parts of the North, which bore the brunt of the 30-year conflict.

One of the earliest casualties of the war was the Northern rail line.

Terrorists blew up the track and the Yal Devi train in the mid-1980s, thus cutting off rail access to Jaffna. The trains operated only up to Vavuniya. With the liberation of the North and the restoration of peace, there is an urgent need for re-starting train services to the North. The Government has already started work on the project.

What is significant is that most of the infrastructure on this line is being built with local funds and expertise. For example, the Social Services and Social Welfare Ministry has undertaken the construction of the Omanthai rail station at a cost of Rs. 26 million. This is incidentally the first ever Sri Lankan railway station to be built with public funding and voluntary labour.

As befitting a building designed and built by the Social Services Ministry, the station will have a myriad of facilities for the disabled and the elderly.

Another unique feature is that it will not draw electricity from the national grid. Solar power will be used instead. The Ministry has another proposal which should be emulated - the public can contribute labour towards the project. Construction professionals can also share their expertise. Monetary donations are welcome, but in our opinion, labour contributions will be even more valuable.

This is an eye-opener for the entire Sri Lankan society. The lesson here is that nothing is beyond our reach if we pool our resources. The defeatist mentality that Sri Lankans cannot launch major projects without foreign help should be quashed if we are to progress rapidly.

A better future for garment industry

Sri Lanka's garment industry is a mainstay of the economy, earning billions of dollars in foreign exchange and employing a large number of youth. The industry has traditionally depended on a few key markets including the European Union and the USA to sell several product lines.

Sri Lanka has enjoyed duty concessions and 'quotas' in some of these markets. But with Sri Lanka's ascension on the economic ladder, these facilities may not last forever. There is speculation on the extension of the GSP+ facility by the EU. Again, it should not be regarded as a permanent lifeline.

What matters is that our garment industry is stable at the moment. Quality, not quantity, also matters in the garment industry especially in order to compete with other garment producers in the Asian Region. Superior quality, innovation and labour standards (aptly exemplified by the tagline Garments Without Guilt) will be even more important in a post GSP/Quota world.

It is also important to introduce new product lines and find new markets. No industry can survive in the long run by depending on a few markets. The authorities should also assist small and medium garment industrialists to reach a bigger market. The handloom industry, which was revived after a near-collapse, too must be given concessions and incentives with an eye on exports.

The Board of Investment must encourage more investors to set up garment factories in areas other than the Western Province. The economies of the North and the East are being rejuvenated after their liberation from the LTTE. It is thus heartening to note that a new garment factory employing 1,000 youth is being opened in the Eastern Province today.

There is no doubt that the North too will get similar factories in due course. With the competition getting tougher, the onus is on the industry to push the boundaries and emerge on top.

Climate change

Using science-based information to guide policy-making:

Speaking as I do from an Asian perspective - a continent in which several developing states, including small island developing states are located - such timely and comprehensive information sharing is vitally important not only to the well-being and developmental processes, benefiting communities and peoples, but also to address core issues of survival of some of the most vulnerable segments of national populations.

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IDPs in Sri Lanka: The untold story

Insurgency has its causes and reasons but not terrorism. In the early stages of the conflict there were many insurgent groups and all of them except one chose democracy to serve its people. That one is the LTTE which transformed itself from insurgency into terrorism.

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On My Watch - Luclen Rajakarunanayake

Brazen contempt of truth and justice

There is a rowdy raving today about the sentencing of Tissainayagam and even calls for an immediate pardon by the President even before the ink is dry on the order given by the learned High Court Judge, and with not even a scrap of paper being produced as to why the President should, exercise his prerogative in this instance alone, when there are many others found guilty of involvement with terrorism

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LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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