MANILA, PHILIPPINES (8 March 2003) - The President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Mr. Tadao Chino, urged the international community to provide continued support to the peace process and not to wait for a lasting peace before coming to Sri Lanka's assistance.
"We need to provide continued assistance to sustain and enhance the peace process for the early achievement of permanent peace," he said during an official visit. "I welcome the international community's decision to provide peace-enhancing support. Such support could involve certain risks, but if successful, can bring enormous rewards. It is a risk worth taking."
ADB has been active in the conflict-affected north and east since 2000. "Two years ago, we started assisting these areas of the country through the North East Community Restoration Project (NECORD)" he said. The project covers a range of complementary activities in all eight districts in the north and east to help those affected by the conflict to rebuild their lives. In addition, ADB is assisting with the rehabilitation of the A9 highway which forms a critical link between northern Sri Lanka and the rest of the country; the Jaffna power rehabilitation; and water supply and sanitation in Batticaloa and Muttur.
While congratulating both parties in the conflict on the progress made towards bringing peace to the north and east, Mr. Chino said that several complex issues needed to be resolved in order to secure a lasting peace. "Peace dividends must be realized for the entire country, not just the conflict-affected north and east", he noted. Such dividends would only be realized through faster and broad-based growth, which would create more employment and reduce poverty.
ADB is working with the Government and other development partners to prepare a comprehensive needs assessment of immediate and long-term needs. "This will provide us and other donors with the basis for formulating our rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance to Sri Lanka. Based on the outcome of the conference to be held in June in Tokyo: "We may consider increasing our assistance to Sri Lanka," he said.
During a three-day visit, Mr. Chino held discussions with top government leaders, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister of Finance Mr. K.N. Choksy and other senior ministers.
The ADB President traveled to the south and met with the Minister of Southern Region Development, Mr. Ananda Kularatne, and to the north, where he met with representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In the north, he said, people are anxiously awaiting more tangible peace dividends as soon as possible. Meanwhile, they are trying to improve their livelihood with limited resources. During the visit, Mr. Chino laid the foundation stone for a hospital at Kilinochchi. He also visited a school which was damaged during the conflict and has since reopened. He also drove along a stretch of the A9 highway which is being rehabilitated with ADB support.
ADB's program in Sri Lanka averages US$200 million a year. Last year, ADB's assistance program to Sri Lanka was about US$240 million, including US$4 million in grants. This was the largest program in a single year since ADB began operations in Sri Lanka in 1968. Sri Lanka is a founder member of ADB, which was set up in 1966 with 31 members. ADB now has 61 members, 44 of them from Asia and the Pacific.
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