Sri Lanka gets $4.5 billion incentive

Galle, January 31:

International donors have used a $4.5 billion aid pledge to try to push Sri Lanka into cutting a political deal with Tamil separatists, diplomats said here at the end of a key meeting.

Foreign donors emerged determined to press for peace after two days of closed-door talks dominated by the island’s deepening conflict.

“Our stand has not changed,” said the World Bank’s vice-president for South Asia, Praful Patel. “Sri Lanka must push for a dialogue to settle the conflict. There is no choice for Sri Lanka but to pursue peace. It’s a tough path. The economy can’t continue to bear the cost of the war.”

Japan, Sri Lanka’s biggest single donor, said a military solution to Sri Lanka’s bitter ethnic conflict was not possible and called on the government and Tamil Tigers to resume talks.

“We are of the view that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict, and hope the peace process will resume soon,” said Reiichiro Takahashi, deputy director of Japan’s foreign ministry. But while delegates said the promise of aid would be used to encourage the

government to go for peace, Colombo insisted there were no strings attached. “There were no conditions laid down for future lending,” said investment promotions minister Sarath Amunugama.

Sri Lanka began the aid review with representatives of about 50 bilateral and international donors and lenders hoping to convert $1.5 billion in aid pledges for this year into firm commitments. Instead, it secured $4.5 billion in pledges for the next two years. Donors had not expected to put new cash on the table during the conference, but to discuss the island’s economic agenda to ensure their money was well spent.