Apr 17, New York: Sri Lanka having identified a number of ongoing challenges in sustainable and equitable development, has introduced measures to address these identified challenges, many of which directly relate to the SDGs, Sri Lanka's Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.
Addressing the General Debate of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) on Tuesday at UN Headquarters in New York, Minister Samaraweera explained some of the measures taken by Sri Lanka including in the 2019 budget to address these identified challenges in sustainable and equitable development.
Observing that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out ambitious and transformative goals that are of critical importance for our world, the Minister said achieving these goals require collective action and considerable development finance – public and private, and domestic and international, which is a challenge.
Minister Samaraweera noted that Sri Lanka has a long history of social development. Although a developing middle income nation, our investments in universal free healthcare and free education have ensured that many of Sri Lanka's social indicators are on par with advanced economies.
However, the Minister said, in the contemporary context, Sri Lanka has identified a number of ongoing challenges in sustainable and equitable development. Measures have been taken to address identified challenges - many of which directly relate to the SDGs. The 2019 national budget includes a number of interventions towards this end.
Highlighting several examples, the Minister said several measures have been introduced to further the participation of women in the economy. These include the government sharing the costs of maternity benefits, public and private investments in child care facilities, and legislative amendments to improve flexibility of working hours.
The government is introducing curricular reforms in secondary education to enhance creative and analytical skills, and technological interventions such as smart classrooms. Investments in school facilities are being ramped up including sanitation which has important implications for continuous education, particularly for the girl child.
In addressing poverty and vulnerability, measures are being taken to encourage employment of people with disabilities through targeted wage subsidies for companies that hire such individuals. Objective and transparent selection criteria have been introduced for welfare transfers to the poor, the elderly, and those vulnerable to natural disasters.
The Minister underscored that natural disasters are an increasingly frequent and damaging occurrence in the island nation. Sri Lanka has been identified as one of the most vulnerable countries in the face of climate change. A substantial contingency fund has been set aside in the 2019 budget to mitigate impacts of climate change and associated natural disasters.
Stating that financial commitments are increasingly challenging for countries like Sri Lanka that are subject to significant fiscal constraints, the Minister emphasized the need for international cooperation including for supporting measures to prevent and mitigate the debilitating impacts of climate change in vulnerable economies.
The Minister urged for greater public-private partnerships and multi-stakeholder initiatives globally, to ensure the successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so that no one is left behind.
Minister Mangala Samaraweera also met the Executive Director of UNICEF Henrietta H. Fore, and discussed matters related to financing for Early Childhood Development (ECD).
Participating in the Ministerial Financial Dialogue Panel Discussion on 'Promoting Inclusive Growth Reducing Inequalities' on 15 April, the Minister shared with the FFD, measures taken in Sri Lanka towards this end, including details of the ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ concessionary loan scheme which was launched in mid-2018 with the objective of creating 100,000 young entrepreneurs especially in the villages.
At the invitation of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, the Minister will participate in an interactive dialogue with representatives of the UN Peacebuilding Commission on 17 April. He will be joined by the Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) Mano Tittawella, Chairperson of the Office on Missing Persons Saliya Pieris, and the Chairperson of the Office for Reparations Dhara Wijayatilake.