It was reported recently that Sri Lanka’s Western
Province has a growth rate equal to that of China, which is
around nine or ten percent. Indeed, there is a vast disparity
between the rate of development of the Western Province and the
For decades, Sri Lankan Governments had followed a policy of
developing the city at the expense of the village. The result
was that rural development stagnated. The rural population had
to look on helplessly as the best schools, hospitals, factories,
roads were built in the cities.
As Senior Presidential Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa explained
in an interview published in these pages yesterday, the
Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa took a bold decision
to change this approach under the Mahinda Chinthana.
Rural development is being given priority, with investors
urged to set up their projects in the hinterland. Thousands of
villages countrywide are being developed under the Gama Neguma
(Village Reawakening) project. Rural roads are being developed
under the Maga Neguma (Road Development) project. The aim of
these projects is to bring prosperity to the once-neglected
Several other policies of the Government are also having an
impact on rural development directly and indirectly. The Mathata
Thitha program has helped reduce alcoholism in rural areas,
making the men productive.
The farmers have received a boost through the fertiliser
subsidy, which has led to an increased paddy harvest. The
setting up of economic centres has also helped rural farmers.
The Government is also dealing successfully with the biggest
problem that stymied overall development: LTTE terrorism. The
terrorists are on the verge of being annihilated. Sri Lankans
can look forward to real peace for the first time in nearly
In the long-term, this also means that the war expenditure
can be channelled to development. The North and the East which
bore the brunt of the conflict should be given priority in this
process. It is no secret that both provinces lag far behind even
the poorest of the Southern provinces.
‘Colambata Kiri-Apita Kekiri’ (Literal translation- Milk for
Colombo, cucumber for the rest of the country) was a popular
slogan among frustrated rural youth around two decades ago.
The catchy slogan conveyed the resentment of the rural masses
that the best things were given to Colombo while they were
Fortunately, this picture has changed now, with the emphasis
firmly on rural development. Peace will augment this process and
lead the whole country towards rapid development.
The global economic crisis has taken its toll on
nations rich and poor. The main topic at the G20 Summit (a
gathering of both developed and emerging economies) under way in
London was how the world should face this unprecedented crisis.
Recession was the keyword as leaders of major economies gathered
to discuss the grim economic scenario.
Both US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas
Sarkozy have appealed for unity and cooperation among the major
economies for responding to this crisis. A global response and
North-South cooperation are essential to protect more vulnerable
economies from the shock.
The international financial system must be restructured to
face challenges of this nature more effectively. Uncontrolled
capitalism has clearly failed and State intervention has been
sought in many cases to save huge private entities. There should
be better regulation of financial markets worldwide. Regulatory
authorities, not mega corporations, should have the final word.
The G20 agreed last November on four principles that would
guide this response: enhanced coordination and cooperation; the
rejection of protectionist measures; the strengthening of
regulatory systems in financial markets; and a new global
However, no country has practiced all four measures in
reality. For example, protectionist measures are still rampant
in rich countries despite the call to end the same. Seventeen of
the twenty G20 countries themselves have imposed new trade
restrictions since November last year despite pledging not to do
This is disastrous for world trade and economic integration
in the long run, apart from the damage to poor countries
depending on export revenue.
There is also a fear that rich countries will be too busy
pumping billions of dollars to rescue their own sagging
economies to think about helping developing countries. That will
be another blow to the world economy. In fact, in reforming
global economic governance, more space must be given to emerging
nations in international financial institutions and other world
There have already been calls to developed countries to raise
their level of funding to the IMF so that poorer nations can
benefit. If the developed world fails to help the developing
world at this juncture, it is highly unlikely that the latter
would achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The
world will eagerly await the outcome of the G20 Summit. Only a
positive result will allay the fears that the leading economies
of the world would fail to address the financial meltdown this
time as well.