Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama who met President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn in Washington on Monday (18 April), expressed Sri Lanka’s appreciation for his personal involvement in assisting Sri Lanka’s recovery efforts related to the December 26 tsunami disaster. The Minister apprised the World Bank President of the mechanisms in place to ensure progress of the country’s tsunami reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts and that the Development Forum of Donors would be held in Kandy in mid May 2005. The World Bank President stated that the model of making disbursements through the banking system, which has worked well in Sri Lanka, could be adopted in other similar World Bank projects as well.

Minister Amunugama, who was in Washington to attend the G-24, IMFC (International Monetary and Financial Committee) and Development Committee (DC) meetings of the IMF and World Bank, concluded his six day visit Monday, receiving assurances of support from senior officials of the two multilateral aid agencies as well as a number of friendly countries.

During a meeting with the Finance Minister, Deputy Managing Director of the IMF Takatoshi Kato, congratulated the visiting Minister for the success of the immediate relief effort in the aftermath of tsunami and wished the Government well in its reconstruction activities. Mr. Kato also indicated that the IMF would help the Sri Lanka Government in its efforts to develop economic stability and growth. Minister Amunugama expressed the gratitude of the Government of Sri Lanka for assistance of the IMF provided through US $110 million as deferment of debt repayment and another US$ 158 million granted under the Emergency Natural Disaster Assistance (ENDA) facility.

In his meeting with Praful Patel, Vice President, South Asia Region of the World Bank, the Minster thanked the World Bank for the immediate assistance provided and the ongoing assistance with regard to the recent tsunami. Mr. Patel also commented on Sri Lanka’s effective response to the needs created by the tsunami disaster. Minister Amunugama informed Mr. Patel that the Government having completed the relief phase was now proceeding with the more difficult reconstruction and rehabilitation phase. He noted that various countries and NGOs (local and international) and the private sector were assisting the country in this phase. The Minister also noted that the revised Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) would be finalized in the coming weeks.

On the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings Minister Amunugama also held several bilateral discussions with his counterparts. Discussions with Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram focused on the growing economic ties between the two countries in the context of the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement. Minister Amunugama expressed the profound appreciation of the Government of Sri Lanka for the solidarity displayed by the Indian Government and the people following the tsunami and for all the assistance rendered by India. Minister Chidambaram assured the Indian Government’s continued support for Sri Lanka and indicated that the ongoing policy dialogue would be intensified.

At a meeting with Caio Koch Weser, the Under Secretary for Finance of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Minister thanked Under Secretary Koch Weser for the overwhelming generosity of the people of Germany following the tsunami disaster. He also expressed the Government’s appreciation for the bilateral assistance extended by the Government of Germany towards Sri Lanka’s reconstruction and rehabilitation activities. The German Finance Under Secretary requested that Sri Lanka convey its special needs identified in the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase to the German Minister of Development for further assistance.

Meeting with the Deputy Finance Minister of Japan Hiroshi Watanabe, Minister Amunugama expressed the Government’s appreciation for the continued support extended by Japan to the country’s development programs as well as to the needs arising from the recent tsunami tragedy. The Minister’s discussions with Deputy Finance Minister Watanabe focused on Sri Lanka’s existing strong bilateral relations and the need to further enhance trade relations between the two countries.

During his stay in Washington Minister Amunugama also met with Representative Jerry Weller, (R-Illinois) and Representative Joseph Crowley (D- New York). The Minister expressed his gratitude for the assistance provided to Sri Lanka during the recent tsunami tragedy by the US Administration as well as by the US public, NGOs, corporations and foundations. The Minister urged the support of the Congress in securing special trade concessions particularly for Sri Lanka’s apparel exports to the US, that would help the Sri Lankan economy in this hour of crisis.

Meeting Mr. Paul Applegarth, Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Dr. Amunugama expressed appreciation for the inclusion of Sri Lanka in the MCA assistance program for FY 2004 and FY 2005. The Minister discussed moving forward on the present Sri Lanka MCC Concept Paper focusing on development of the rural sector, to develop it into a compact to be successfully negotiated for funding by the MCC.

The Finance Minister’s delegation included Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, Deputy Chief of Mission H.K.J.R. Bandara, Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Sunil Mendis, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury M. Sumith Abeysinghe, Assistant Governor of the Central Bank Dr. A.G. Karunasena, Alternate Executive Director, IMF Dr. Uthum Herat, Additional Director General, Development Finance, Ministry of Finance, H.M. Gunasekera, First Secretary of the Sri Lanka Embassy Dhammika Semasinghe, and Second Secretary Ameena Mohin.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

18 April 2005


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