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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Monday, July 31, 2006

OED report: Mahaweli Ganga Project leaves much to be desired – World Bank

The Island: 31/07/2006" By Ashwin Hemmathagama

Mahaweli Ganga Project which is considered as country’s landmark multi-purpose rural development programme was recently reconfirmed as one of the unsatisfactory projects for both the lender and the borrower in meeting the expected results.

World Bank has revealed this in its report, ‘Project Performance Reassessment Report – Third Mahaweli Ganga Development Project,’ it has been found that reassessing the project previously evaluated by the Operations Evaluation Department (OED) testing the initial findings and ratings remain valid after a significant lapse of time.

According to this, 52 paged report which contains the reassessments based substantially on responses to an OED sponsored survey of 200 households in ‘System C’ (Dehiattakandiya, Giradurukotte, and Mahiyanganaya) carried out in February 2004 outlines three important findings where the water user groups have failed to emerge as financially self-sustaining entities, capable of assuming full responsibility for the operation and maintenance functions that government has assigned to them.

"Rushing technical and economic feasibility studies, or paying insufficient attention to the findings are likely to result in an unsatisfactory project outcome, settlement programmes that do not select candidates with previous farming experience and which do not provide settlers with full title to their land are not likely to prosper, and using repeated interviews with a small number of households, supplemented by interviews with local leaders and community groups are an effective low cost technique for tracking the performance of rural development projects," the report highlights as the three important findings.

The sustainability of the project’s net benefit stream is rated unlikely that given the cutbacks in government spending on operation and maintenance, the failure of water user groups to become financially self-sustaining, the lack of diversification into higher margin crops, land tenure insecurity, and the overall stagnation of incomes.

"The reassessment rates the outcome as highly unsatisfactory, based on the modest relevance of the project’s development objectives, modest progress in achieving those objectives and negligible efficiency. Relevance was limited by the project’s failure to address distortions in the agriculture incentives regime, the lack of consideration given to organizing water users for cost recovery, the failure to provide settlers with secure land rights, and the absence of provisions for sound management of natural resources," the report stated.

The Sri Lanka Third Mahaweli Ganga Development Project based on water resources of Mahaweli and allied six river basins was supported by a credit of US $ 90 million equivalent. The credit was approved in June 1981 and was closed in December 1991, four years later than expected. Between 1970 and 1998 the World Bank has extended six credits to the Mahaweli programme, totaling about US $ 450 million in 2001 dollars. The objective of the project was to improve rural livelihoods through a settlement programme involving irrigated farming and supporting infrastructure, with a view to boosting incomes and boosting rice production to substitute for imports.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Substantial resources allocated: Lack of coordination hampers development

Sunday Observer: 30/07/2006" by Surekha Galagoda

The 2006 budget has allocated Rs. 46 billion(US$ 460 million) targeting poverty alleviation and rural development.

The pro poor programs planned and launched include Gemi Diriya, Gam Pubuduwa, Maga Neguma, Kiri Gammana, Osu Gammana, Gamata Karmantha, Pubudamu Wellassa, Rajarata Navodaya and Nenasala.

National program Director Millennium Development Goals (MDG) UNDP Sherman Gunatillake said that 119 District Secretariat Divisions identified based on the poverty headcount index prepared by the Department of Census and Statistics have been given priority in implementing the programs.

In September 2000 the government and its people joined the international community in pledging their support for the Millennium Declaration at the United Nations Millennium Summit. MDGs are the world's targets for reducing extreme poverty in its many dimensions by 2015.

The goals are targeted at reducing poverty, hunger, disease, exclusion, lack of infrastructure and shelter while promoting gender equality, education, health and environmental sustainability.

Gunatillake said that when reviewing the progress of the country's achievements towards MDGs the issue of regional disparities is not being systematically addressed and it hinders the equitable and balance development of the country.

He said that 51% of the country's GDP is concentrated in the western province and it has increased alarmingly during the past decade. Despite an insignificant growth in the GDP share being reported in the Northern and Eastern provinces after the signing of the peace accord with the LTTE the share of GDP in the rest of the provinces remains static at a single digit.

He said that although the central government allocates a substantial amount of resources annually for a variety of regional development programs, lack of coordination among ministries and weaknesses in the delivery channels hamper the development activities and the targeted outcome at regional level.

Gunatillake said that the MDG cluster and the rural development cluster under the NCED representing the relevant line ministries agencies and the private sector have recognised the impediments in regional development and proposals were presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa outlining an effective implementation mechanism of pro poor programs at regional level.

Approval was given for the cabinet paper submitted by the President to strengthen the District Secretariat divisions to implement the Gama Naguma Program.

As per the statistical review 2006 on the MDGs in Sri Lanka complied as part of the National MDG agenda by the Department of Census and Statistics, the headcount ratio in Sri Lanka has declined from 26.1% during 1990/91 to 22.7% in 2002.

Assuming a linear trend, poverty can be expected to fall to 19% by 2015 which is considerably higher than the target of 13%. Therefore Sri Lanka is not on track to achieve the target of halving poverty as measured by the headcount ratio.

The poverty Gap Ratio is a measure of how poor the poor are with respect to the poverty line. The target is to reduce the national PGR by half from 5.6% to 2.8% by 2015. At national level the PGR shows a declining trend but the country is not on track to meet the target.

However, the urban sector has already exceeded the national target. Challenges still remain for the rural and estate sectors, particularly the latter which has experienced an increase in the poverty gap, specially in the male headed households.

The percentage of underweight children under five is one of the two indicators used to monitor target two of MDG 1.

The prevalence of moderate and severe underweight among children has declined nationally from 37.7% in 1993 to 29.4% in 2000.

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