The World Bank (WB) in ramping up its support to Sri Lanka - lending approximately $500 million annually, from 2013, against $200 million annually earlier, and working with the government to ensure a level playing field in the distribution of minimum services in Health, Education and Social sectors across the island.
Under the Bank’s 4-year, to 2016, Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Sri Lanka, approved by its Washington-based Board of directors on Tuesday, the funds come from the Bank’s two lending subsidiaries- IDA and IBRD, at different interest rates, but still, lower than commercial banks.
WB’s Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Diarietou Gaye told the Sunday Times in an interview that, they were shifting from the traditional practice in the past, of having Bank-initiated projects run parallel to government projects, and would now work with the government in its own, budgeted programmes.
“In such an exercise, you don’t need separate staff, as you work with existing staff in these programmes. The benefit of linking up with State projects is that, money is more predictable and monitoring is easier, because we work together with the government in realising a set of goals and objectives,” she said.
An important element in the new CPS is to ensure people in all regions have access to minimum services, which means uplifting services in deprived areas, to standards available in more advanced regions.
In finalising the country programme, the Bank consulted various segments of the community, including politicians, the media, the private sector, community workers and farmers. Its discussions in Jaffna revealed one salient point: Young people there, want to move forward, leave the past behind and be treated equally with the rest of the country.
“People (in the north) are tired of us talking about what happened in the past. They want to move forward, and are (also) sick and tired of being treated as separate entities - North and East. They say, they want to be part of an integrated country,” she said, adding that these are being tackled in the programme, through ensuring equality for all in services across all regions.
“The government also would want to see a level playing field where programmes ensure that minimum services are available with access to all, irrespective of the region.”
The first project under the CPS is a nationwide $200 million-funded Health programme providing a minimum standard of service in all regions including lagging areas. A Bank team is currently in Sri Lanka, working with the government to develop a project dealing with uplifting facilities in hospitals, improving nutrition content in weaker areas, and enhancing the capacity of the Health Ministry and local government to manage their resources.
Other programmes are the metro Colombo development, Education reforms and Skills development ensuring school children are provided with the skills needed in the job market.