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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. 

Saturday, September 09, 2006

First SME Machinery Fair 2006 targets “Technology for rural, Micro and SME Development”

Daily Mirror: 09/09/2006" By Damayanthi Hewamanna

The first SME Machinery Fair 2006 under the theme “Technology for rural, Micro and SME Development” kicked off its three day exhibition at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre yesterday.

“The government of Sri Lanka has recognized the role played by the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in its growth in the income and employment generation of the country”, Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) President Nawaz Rajabdeen said yesterday at the inauguration ceremony. The SME Machinery Fair 2006 is said to be benefiting for all the SME’s by ways of showing them the advantage of technology and also get to know about how to improve a product. They had also invited some Indian delegates also to participate in the fair and there are 14 Indian stalls that are in display at the fair.

“The exhibition has opened the doors to the rural people who have no employment in their area”, Chief Guest and Minister of Rural Industries and Self-Employment Promotion S.B. Navinna said. He said that they are in an era of transition from traditional to modern techniques and that in the rural sector new technology is required not only to create new products and services but also for redesigning products that are there. The ministry plans to obtain machines that have been tested and used in India, China, Korea and Thailand as these technologies will create new economic activities and generate a substantial impact in the development of rural economy in the country.

The exhibition has been organized by FCCISL along with Small and Medium and Enterprise Developers (SMED) and showcases various innovative machinery and accessories of the Sri Lankan and Indian companies. They also have services offered by several Research and Development organizations for SME development. They have planned out small government agencies who will be offering sub-contracting opportunities for SMEs participating in the exhibition. Seminars and workshops have also been arranged for people who will be visiting the exhibition so as to give them a better understanding as to what it is all about.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tsunami Special Envoy’s Office, donors explore microfinance option for longer-term recovery challenges

Daily Mirror: 07/09/2006"

Representatives of major international organizations, non-governmental agencies, donors and the Sri Lankan government met last week in Colombo to examine how microfinance can better contribute to ongoing tsunami recovery efforts.

“Microfinance is vital not only to help the Sri Lankan people rebuild, but also to address the more persistent issue of poverty among those hardest hit by the tsunami,” said Eric Schwartz, the United Nations’ Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.

The event, which was organized with support from the German Technical Cooperation GTZ, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), was hosted by the Washington, DC-based Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Office of the Special Envoy, led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The meeting was part of a broader move in the region to evaluate the tsunami response and push for the long term impact of development assistance.

Thoughtfully executed, microfinance programs can continue to grow long after aid money dries up. That is good news for communities throughout Sri Lanka, which have already used microfinance services -- from loans to savings to insurance -- to rebuild homes and businesses. The same services, say microfinance proponents, can help families educate their children and cover unforeseen healthcare and other costs.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, many development agencies increased their microfinance funding, but a recent CGAP report said agencies could do more to make sure this funding is having a lasting impact. (Visit www.cgap.org to read the Sri Lanka Country-Level Effectiveness and Accountability Review.)

Building in part on the report’s recommendations and on the work accomplished by the Microfinance Network operated by development partners in Sri Lanka, participants at the recent meeting they re-confirmed their commitment to common rules of the game and reporting standards for their post-tsunami microfinance programs. The standards aim to build financial sustainability among microfinance providers so they can provide permanent access to financial services for their clients.

Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is a global resource center for microfinance standards, operational tools, training, and advisory services. Its members - including bilateral, multilateral, and private funders of microfinance programs - are committed to building more inclusive financial systems for the poor. For more information, visit www.cgap.org.

Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery (OSE) The UN Secretary-General appointed President Clinton as Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery in February 2005. President Clinton’s role since then has been to keep the world's attention on the tsunami operations; support coordination efforts at the country and global levels; promote transparency and accountability measures that will ensure resources are used well and for the reasons intended, as well as retain the engagement of the millions of "investors"; and champion a new kind of recovery that not only restores what existed previously, but goes beyond, seizing the moral, political, managerial, and financial opportunities the crisis has offered governments to set communities on a better and safer development path.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Slow tsunami housing progress worries RADA

The Island: 02/09/2006"

One of the main reasons for the slow progress made in housing for tsunami affected people has been due to some donors not keeping to their commitments despite the promises they made in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.

Although the INGOs made pledges to build over 66,000 houses, much of it has not been realized to date as only MOUs for 16,487 housing units have been signed.

We the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) have raised concerns over certain INGOS not honouring the pledges made and not meeting the deliverable stipulated in the MOUs. The challenge we have faced today is to ensure that all INGOs keep to their promises. One of the options now made available to expedite construction is to convert the Donor Driven housing projects into the Owner Driven program where the beneficiaries themselves build their house utilizing the funds promised through pledges already made by leading INGOs.

In the immediate aftermath of tsunami the psychological environment of the coast was such that affected families were by and large not prepared to build their houses soon after the tragedy. Now one year and eight months later, the psychological environment of the coast has changed so dramatically that the affected families are no longer obsessed by fear and insecurity and are ready to come forward and rebuild their own houses if the funding support for the construction is provided. It is against this changed background H. E. the President has initiated a new policy of converting the Donor Driven housing reconstruction programme into Owner Driven programme.

According to the Owner Driven Housing programme under the new tsunami housing policy approved by his Excellency the President in May 2006, Government has taken steps to provide 250,000/= for affected families for the construction of houses whilst the INGOs are given the option of co-financing governments efforts by directly distributing among beneficiaries the funds which were allocated for building by the INGOs themselves.

To ensures transparency, donors who opted to convert to the Owner Driven program were given the list of beneficiaries whom they can co-finance so that INGOs themselves can verify their needs and make direct payments to these families. This conversion was the most practical way of solving some of the logistical issues faced in constructing houses by INGOs themselves for handing over to beneficiaries. Already some of the large scale INGOs such as the Red Cross have opted to convert two third of their pledges to the Owner Driven Program.

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