Basil highlights Norway aid to develop rural sector

Despite the global economic downturn and the drought experiencing in some part of Sri Lanka, the country would achieve good results in economic development this year too and that trend would continue for some years, said Basil Rajapaksa, Senior Adviser to the President and Minister of Economic Development when he met the New Norwegian Ambassador at the Ministry of Economic Development.

Norwegian Ambassador Grete Lochen paid a courtesy call on Minister on late last week and discussed the future economic and trade relationship between the two countries.

Minister Rajapaksa said: "Trade sanction against Iran has a severe impact on Sri Lankan economy. Our refinery built decades ago can only refine Iranian oil. Now Sri Lanka has to reduce the oil imports from Iran and increase the import of refined oil paying high prices. This led to further widen the country’s trade gap. Increasing trade deficit is the main problem Sri Lanka is confronting at present. But steps taken by the government to reduce the trade deficit is showing good results. Sri Lanka will be able to reduce the unemployment, poverty and inflation and increased the growth rate and reserves."

He said IMF had very successfully completed its standby arrangement package of US$ 2.6 billion for Sri Lanka very recently. That indicated the well disciplined financial management of Sri Lanka. Only a few countries had completed the IMF standby packages enabling them to draw the last tranches.

Ambassador Lochen said Norway would extend its fullest cooperation for the economic development of Sri Lanka. Norway assisted Sri Lanka to develop country’s fishing industry and tourism. Arrangements also would be made to have a meeting between Sri Lankan business community and Norwegian investors.

Minister Basil Rajapaksa said Norway had helped Sri Lanka in many ways in economic development. Cey-Nor was established with Norway’s assistance to develop the fishing industry. There were many Norwegian investments in Sri Lanka and some of the investors had been in Sri Lanka for more than 30 years. Norad had provided assistance for many development projects.

He said Sri Lanka initiated many programmes for infrastructure development. Priority was given to the rural development to avoid unnecessary urbanization as experienced in developed world. If we develop the infrastructure facilities in the rural areas people would not migrate to urban areas. Therefore we had paid much attention to the rural infrastructure development.

"These developments in the economic sector as well as the other positive changes such as political stability in Sri Lanka will help Norway and Sri Lanka to start a new era of bilateral relations between the two countries. There are many potential sectors for Norwegian investors including the tourism sphere" said Basil Rajapaksa.

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