Special law giving effect to ‘Palmyrah Fund’ in the offing

Politics

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday the government would introduce a piece of legislation to give effect to the ‘Palmyrah Development Fund’ established to fast-track development efforts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, particularly conflict-affected areas. He said this at the launch of the fund at Temple Trees.

“We have allocated a total of Rs.5 billion this year for the development of the North and the East. A large amount from this allotment will go for housing. More than 2,000 houses will be put up in the North this year. A further of Rs.7 billion will be spent for the North and the East under ‘Gamperaliya’ and ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ programmes,” he said.

On a different note, he said Tamil graduates would be employed under the government’s programme of recruiting 22,000 skilled individuals.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the government had to reduce the finances allocated to the said fund considering the present situation of the country.

“We did not want to compromise with the proposed fund which was a budget proposal as our government is committed to the development of the North and the East just like other parts of the country,” he said.

Commenting on the same, TNA leader R. Sampanthan said allocations made to the fund were hardly sufficient to carry out meaningful work.

“There are eight districts in the Northeast namely Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Ampara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. When you divide the fund among them, there won’t be enough to carry out meaningful work,” the MP said.

The allocation of Rs.5 billion will be spent over a period of two years under various categories.

(I). Economic Infrastructure Development – This gives priority to rural roads, bridges, drainage systems, anchorages, jetties and so forth, which will foster economic growth in conflict-affected and underprivileged areas.

(II). Social Infrastructure Development – This component will focus on developing healthcare, education, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, sports, recreational facilities and spiritual development. It will support smart classrooms, furniture and science/IT laboratories for schools, playground development, sanitation and safe drinking water facilities in schools and support to address diagnostics facilities to improve quality of health services, religious centres for spiritual development and sports for physical fitness and personality development.

(III). Infrastructure for Agriculture, Industry and Service Sectors – This aspect aims at supporting infrastructure development in areas of productive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, industry and service with a view to ensure market linkages and to improve value addition. This includes infrastructure facilities such as rehabilitation of minor tanks, anchorages and landing facilities, shore facilities, rehabilitation of industrial estate and related infrastructure in backward areas.

(IV). Support income generation, livelihood and self-employment – This initiative will provide livelihood opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in conflict-affected areas with a view to bringing them into mainstream economic development.

In addition, this will be used to address the issues of alcoholism, drug abuse, youth unemployment, the civil society initiated counselling and support programmes.

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