Sri Lanka's post-war development and the integration of war-torn areas into it were recognised in the lobbies of the United Nations Centre in Bangkok where a key session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) concluded on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
Several delegates and ESCAP officials complimented International Monetary Cooperation Senior Minister Dr Sarath Amunugama, head of the Sri Lanka delegation, for the positive steps Sri Lanka has taken in the last two years including bringing the north and east of the country into the development equation and opening up significant infrastructure projects in road, rail and shipping, they added.
Sri Lanka's role as a fast emerging middle-income power in Asia and as a important multifarious hub in the south and southeast Asian region was recognised when Dr. Amunugama was unanimously elected as chairman of the Ministerial Segment of ESCAP's 67th Commission Session attended by over 50 member-states and associates and a large number of UN affiliated and other bodies.Dr Amunugama's name was proposed by the host country Thailand and seconded by Turkey which is aspiring to join the European Union, indicating perhaps Sri Lanka's widespread acceptance to steer the key sessions.
This week long conference was particularly significant as Asia-Pacific's economic recovery after the financial turbulence in the West is running into the twin problems of rising food and fuel prices resulting in over another 40 million people remaining in poverty in addition to the 90 million in this region already poverty stricken.
It is against a somewhat negative scenario - but certainly not as bad as in industrialised countries - that Dr. Amunugama's portrayal of Sri Lanka's emerging development landscape provided a more salutory note, officials said. Dr. Amunugama said Sri Lanka recorded a GDP growth of 8% last year, the highest annual growth rate reported in the last three decades. He said there had been remarkable growth in the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors.
Sri Lanka's external reserves are at an all time high of US$ 7 billion, fuelled by the growth of exports, tourism and remittances from Sri Lankan workers abroad.
He said that after defeating LTTE terrorism two years ago the Government was able to re-integrate the Northern and Eastern Provinces into the national economy and they have contributed significantly to GDP growth.
Moreover Sri Lanka which has had a long history of social protection for its citizens was well on the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals well ahead of target.
Sri Lanka was furthered honoured by ESCAP, the UN's biggest regional arm, when Dr. Amunugama was also nominated to the High-level Panel which discussed several socio-economic issues of global import.
In the wings of the Commission Sessions Dr. Amunugama had conversations with the heads of delegations of several member-states who are also members of the UN Human Rights Council. These included Kasit Piromya, Foreign Minister of Thailand, current Chair of the UNHRC in Geneva.