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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

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Government Gazette

Optimum use of foreign aid

Many aid agencies in the past had delivered strictures on successive Governments for under utilizing donor aid.Some even refused to extend further aid due to this reason, stalling development work. This is mainly due to the fact that our administrative set up was hamstrung by red tape and other bureaucratic bottlenecks. Project permits were held back for one reason or other and investors were sent from pillar to post resulting in delay in these projects getting off the ground. More often than not development projects were abandoned due to investors quitting in disgust. The end result - grandiose development programs being stillborn and donor funds still in the kitty.

Therefore it is encouraging to note Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardhana saying that Government entities would be strengthened to enhance utilization of foreign aid towards development projects.

Speaking at a function in Matara the Minister said at present foreign aid utilization stood at 35 percent which needs to be increased to a higher level with the opening up of new development projects in the country including the North and East.”With the dawn of peace in the country, the Government has launched many development projects with Government and donor funds covering the whole country”.

Compared with the poor performance in the past, 35 percent aid utilization is noteworthy. What should be done now is to improve it further so that a majority share of the aid could be spent productively. It is necessary to streamline the administration so that feasibility studies, environment import studies and other necessary procedures and administration could be completed without unnecessary delay.

Foreign aid is obtained with difficulty and for good causes. Hence it is a criminal wastage, if it remains unutilized or underutilized. While unutilized aid is lost, development work for which they were obtained gets stalled.

Sri Lanka stands to get rid of the lethargy and sluggishness that has almost become a hallmark of development work, especially those in the State sector.

It could also be advisable to remove the component of foreign aid utilized for seminars, foreign trips and other unproductive endeavours.

With massive foreign funds now expected to flow into the country, the Government must see to it that every dollar is spent for the intended purpose and that no room is left for waste and financial impropriety. This, while ensuring that the funds are spent prudently where the public derives the maximum benefit.

Under-utilization of donor funds is the result of poor planning and direction and most often occurs when the anticipated counterpart funds fail to materialize. Sometimes development projects that started with much fanfare gets stalled midway due to this and the donor component remains idle. Therefore all angles should be covered in any given project to ensure the optimum funds being utilized.

Above all, accountability should be the key principal governing the utilization of donor funds. This is more so since funding sources are fast drying up due to heavy lending into spheres affected by the global financial crisis. Ideally the Government should set up a separate body staffed with experts to monitor the utilization of foreign aid to ensure no areas are neglected in the post war reconstruction.


Arresting reckless driving

The Health Ministry is to formulate a system whereby an errant motorist who injures a victim will be called upon to foot the latter’s medical bill. According to a Ministry spokesman, the Government spends between Rs. 5 and 10 million on a single such victim during his or her period of hospitalization.

It is said that more often than not the victim is a breadwinner and ends up becoming a dependent due to being maimed or carrying other serious injuries. This, while the perpetrator gets away with a fine. On the face of it, the move is a logical one especially given the statistics showing some 50,000 road accidents annually. Though all may more fall into the ‘serious’ category, a sizeable percentage of this would be ICU cases where the Government would be footing the bill which would be a not inconsiderable sum from the health budget.

According to the proposed move, the offender will have to reimburse the entirety of the hospital bill that is meant to act as a deterrent. But nothing is mentioned about the consequences of default.

Sure, affluent motorists may be able to fork any sum. But what about the ordinary lorry and bus driver? Could they meet a medical bill of Rs.5 million? Therefore the remedy lies in stringent court sentences to arrest reckless driving on our roads leading to accidents.

Political solution through reconciliation

Since June this year, when we last addressed this forum, Sri Lanka has made significant strides towards a lasting and durable solution to our long-standing conflict. I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the keen interest the members of this Council have displayed in the evolving situation in Sri Lanka and wish to reassure them that, with the defeat of terrorism, the President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government is doing its utmost to restore, rebuild and renew the foundations of a democratic social order throughout the Lankan territory.

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The Morning Inspection - Malinda 

The black and white of the (mis)information industry

There is this strange thing about skin colour. If you are white, you can do no wrong, you are above-board, intelligent, good hearted etc etc, at least that’s what certain high-ranking people on the global stage seems to believe. I am talking specifically about James Elder, UNICEF’s Communications Director in Sri Lanka, who has been asked to leave the island by September 21, 2009.

Full Story

Don Bosco Vocational Training Centres:

Beacon to a darkened landscape

Don Bosco Vocational Training Centres are located in all parts of Sri Lanka. There are no less than 10 such training centres approved by the Board of Investment alone and they scattered from North to the South and East to the West. What business is a vocational training centre having with the Board of Investment? That seems a very legitimate question.

Full Story

The ninth death anniversary of M. H. M. Ashraff falls today:

Kingmaker of the East

Nine years sounds quite a long period, but not when it comes to Ashraff. It seems only yesterday that he took off without bidding us farewell. Aman his only son, a young man with his adorable Zahara, by his side brings but Ashraff to life. The humility, genuine warmth, and secrecy in generosity in abundance, is truly Ashraff in Aman.

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