USAID head urges crisis-hit Sri Lanka to tackle corruption
COLOMBO — A visiting U.S. diplomat called on Sunday for Sri Lankan authorities and governance reforms to be implemented in the wake of the country’s worst crisis in recent history. Samantha Power, USAID Administrator, told reporters that such steps will increase trust in the government’s intentions.
“Assistance alone would not put an end to this country’s woes,” Power said. “I stressed to the Sri Lankan president in my meeting earlier today that political reforms and political accountability must go hand in hand with economic reforms and economic accountability.”
She said that international investor confidence will increase as the government tackles corruption and proceeds with long sought governance reforms. She stated that citizens will see the government demonstrating its commitment to meaningful change. This will increase societal support for the difficult economic reforms ahead.
During her two-day visit to Sri Lanka, Power announced a total amount of $60 millions in aid for the country. After meeting with representatives of farmers at Ja-Ela’s rice field, just outside the capital Colombo, Power announced $40 millions to purchase agrochemicals for the next growing season.
Agricultural yields dropped by more than half for the past two cultivation seasons because authorities had banned the imports of chemical fertilizers ostensibly to promote organic farming. According to the World Food Program, 6 million people in Sri Lanka — almost 30% — are currently facing food security and need humanitarian assistance.
She announced that an additional $20million will be provided to provide humanitarian assistance to families in need on Sunday. Sri Lanka has been in its worst crisis since it defaulted upon foreign loans. This caused shortages of essentials such as fuel, medicines, and food. It has reached a preliminary agreement to pay $2.9 billion over four years to the International Monetary Fund. The program is contingent on Sri Lanka’s international creditors providing assurances regarding loan restructuring. Sri Lanka’s foreign debt total exceeds $51 trillion, of which $28 million must be repaid by 2027..
Power stated that the U.S. is ready to help with debt restructuring and reiterated the importance of China, one the island’s largest creditors, cooperating in this effort.
Infrastructure like a seaport, airport and a network of highways built with Chinese funding did not earn revenue and are partly blamed for the country’s woes.
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