Sept 12, Colombo: The United States Senate Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific has opposed the Trump Administration's proposal of a drastic 92 percent cut in U.S. aid to Sri Lanka.
The Committee on Appropriations while passing the Department Of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, 2018 noted that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) arbitrarily set the topline funding level for the International Affairs budget without input from the Department of State and aid for Sri Lanka, strategically positioned along key shipping lanes and emerging from decades of conflict, was cut by 91 percent in the proposed budget.
"Given the geostrategic importance of the country, the Committee does not support the President's budget request for Sri Lanka, which proposed a 92 percent reduction in assistance from the prior fiscal year," the Committee on Appropriations said in its report.
"The Committee recognizes and supports the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to advance democracy and the rule of law, and encourages further steps to address the underlying causes of the armed conflict by promoting justice and reconciliation," it said recommending a total of US$ 43.88 million funding to Sri Lanka.
Last week during a hearing of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the Foreign Affairs Committee, on "Maintaining U.S. Influence in South Asia: The FY 2018 Budget" Subcommittee chairman representative Ted Yoho said retaining effective programs and initiatives that strengthen the partnerships and further U.S. interests throughout South Asia needs to be the primary objective.
Yoho said Sri Lanka going through the civil war for 30 years has a fledgling democracy since 2015 and the U.S. needs to ensure that investments made in Sri Lanka stays long term.
"We want to make sure that the investments we made stay and the long term benefit of that is here in the long time so that we can make sure there is rule of law, and democracies that continue to foster those relationships, trade, economics, security and cultural exchanges. It is so important we do that," he said.
He said the U.S. should not move away from the investments made despite the economic difficulties the country is currently experiencing. "We should make them stronger," Yoho said.
Noting that the Millennium Challenge Corporation will be investing US$ 500 million in Sri Lanka, the representative from Florida said the committee is concerned about changing the course drastically.
"While we're forming a large Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with Sri Lanka, we will focus on economic activities. We are concerned that by changing course so drastically, we want to make sure that we're not throwing away the investments we've already made in Sri Lanka, which will leave a gap in the democracy and governance programs Sri Lanka badly needs, and will potentially force the closure of our USAID mission."