|Saturday, 17 July 2004|
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Eye-opener on World Bank
President Kumaratunga's positive assessment of the World Bank's role in the development of Sri Lanka, should have proved an eye-opener for the great majority of the local public. This is an account of the fact that the World Bank has been often projected in a controversial light by some of this country's multifarious experts.
It needs to be admitted that World Bank prescriptions for Third World development have been recipients, more often of, brickbats rather than bouquets. Structural Adjustment policies of the Bank, for instance, have been singled out for lambasting over the years, as sure recipes for economic and social ruin.
However, we now have it on the authority of President Kumaratunga, that the World Bank "has played an essential role towards the development of Sri Lanka." In fact, Lanka's relations with the World Bank over the past fifty years have been "very good". Besides, "the Bank has never forced their way to implement any proposal adverse to the country", the President was quoted as revealing.
This could be considered a very timely record-straightening exercise. Contrary to popular belief, the World Bank does not force any of its growth prescriptions and economic recovery plans down the throats of developing countries.
It is entirely up to the country concerned to accept or reject these World Bank proposals. Accordingly, the relationship between the World Bank and Sri Lanka has been one of cooperation and united action rather than one of conflict and disagreement. Such clarifications coming on the 50th anniversary of World Bank assistance to Sri Lanka, are most revelatory and enlightening.
They help in dispelling the myriad of misleading myths which have been dogging Lanka-World Bank relations at their heels, over the years.
It doesn't require an indepth knowledge of international relations to realise that we are under no compulsion to accept World Bank advice on development issues.
We are always free to refrain from dealing with global financial institutions, such as the World Bank, but we would certainly be the loser because ready economic assistance is needed for, particularly, short and medium-term development. Besides, the terms of such assistance are always open to negotiation. The challenge is to get such assistance on terms favourable to us.
However, the truth is that World Bank assistance has brought sunshine into the lives of the majority of Lankans, including those in the North-East. While, self-help and independent development is best, no damage could be envisaged for a developing country if it receives external financial assistance on terms favourable to it. However, while accepting such sustenance, it needs to also look to a future where it could do without the crutch of externally-fuelled development assistance.
Besides, Minister Anura Bandaranaike's comment on the law-utilization of World Bank funding should be taken into account. What we have had in Sri Lanka thus far is distorted and not equitable development. This is the reason why growth tends to be centred mainly in the Western Province. External funding should be fully and equitably utilized to enable all to prosper.
Produced by Lake House