Mar 03, Colombo: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has commended the economic development in Sri Lanka's Northern and Eastern Provinces, a region that was battered by the 30-year long civil war, while pointing out that economic development is alone not enough without achieving reconciliation and lasting peace.
The Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID's Asia Bureau, Denise Rollins has expressed satisfaction over the development work done in the two Tamil-dominated provinces after the end of the war in May 2009 .
During a meeting with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa last week to review Sri Lanka's development programs supported by the USAID, Rollins has said that there would be greater job opportunities in the two provinces through tax-free investments.
Ms. Rollins has pointed out that the scenic attractions of the North and East, especially the scenic beaches in the Eastern coastal belt, and the traditional Sri Lankan hospitality were bound to attract more foreign tourists to Sri Lanka boosting the fast-growing tourism industry.
The Minister has briefed the USAID official of an accelerated development programme the government had launched in the North and East to provide housing and infrastructure facilities drinking water, sanitation, and electricity.
With the provision of electricity, the production of garments and industrial goods has begun creating environment for industries to invest in the region to uplift the people's living standards, Minister Rajapaksa has explained to the official.
Speaking of the agricultural development in the region, Minister Rajapaksa has told the USAID official that irrigated water supply and availability of fertilizer and other requirements for agricultural development have produced high yields from paddy, undu, mung and other grain crops in areas of Jaffna and Vavuniya.
The Minister has noted that other areas of the island are also benefiting from agricultural production with annual high yields.
Minister Rajapaksa has said that the government plans to increase foreign-exchange earnings through flexible investment policies that include 99 year leases which will encourage foreign investors to build factories in the lands they have leased.
Earlier in the week addressing media briefing the USAID official has reiterated the support of the agency for Sri Lanka.
Ms. Rollins has emphasized that most of USAID assistance today is focused on restoring livelihoods ensuring food security, promoting market access, developing local entrepreneurs and strengthening the capacity of local institutions to help improve the lives particularly of those most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the North and the East.
"We continue to work on recovery in the former war zones, through infrastructure, income generating activities, shelter, water, sanitation, food aid, and support for IDPs," the USAID official has said.
The official has announced a US$10.5 million program called Development Grants Program, (DGP) that will directly provide grants to 12 local Sri Lankan organizations for projects that are focused on livelihoods development, water and sanitation, disability support services and civic dialogue.
An ice factory built in Jaffna for the benefit of the fishermen under the USAID program was opened on Friday March 01.
The USAID official also stressed the need for the government to achieve further reconciliation, and take greater efforts to implement the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission recommendations and the National Action Plan.
"Economic development is not enough without also making accelerated progress to achieve lasting reconciliation and enduring peace," Ms. Rollins has said.
"Key to all of this will be transparent governance as well as following through with a process of accountability for events at the end of the war including civilian casualties’ incredible allegations of human rights violations," She has stressed.