Date: 02 Mar 2006
COLOMBO, March 2 (Reuters) - Japan warned Sri Lanka on Thursday not to take hundreds of millions of dollars' in aid for granted, saying future assistance will depend on the government tackling policy inconsistencies and reform delays.
Akio Suda, Japan's ambassador to Sri Lanka, said his government was concerned at how Sri Lanka has squandered years of potential development through slow decision making, and was concerned about the island's budget deficit. "I hope that the Sri Lankan government and the people have a clear understanding of the significance of Japan's continuing development assistance to this country," Suda told a news conference to showcase Japan's aid to Sri Lanka.
"At the same time I hope that the Sri Lankan government and people do not take it for granted."
Japan is Sri Lanka's biggest development aid donor, spearheading a consortium of donor nations which pledged $4.5 billion in aid in 2003 to help the island rebuild infrastructure ravaged by a two-decade war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels now in limbo because of a ceasefire.
In the wake of Asia's December 2004 tsunami, Japan has continued to disburse hundreds of millions of dollars worth of grant aid and loans to Sri Lanka, despite lurches in a peace process that came to the brink of collapse in January.
"Sri Lanka has lost many years in its development process by frequently reviewing and changing once-decided plans of important development projects," Suda said, underscoring how it took 14 years for work to finally start on a major hydropower plant planned in 1991.
Donors and aid agencies privately voice frustration at bureaucratic delays in securing approval for projects, hampered by frequent government and cabinet changes, particularly given the world pledged $3.3 billion to Sri Lanka to rebuild after the tsunami.
Some aid Japan earmarked to help the government restructure the state's loss-making Ceylon Electricity Board actually expired because the government failed to decide on reforms.
"The Japanese government is ready to continue its development assistance to Sri Lanka ... It depends, however, on whether you can carry on a consistent development policy, necessary reform and sound financial management," Suda said, referring to a budget deficit expected to widen in 2005 due to post-tsunami expenditure.
"And (it depends on) whether the government, the LTTE and all other parties can work closer to realise the non-violence process of peace."