Washington, May 13, 2010 - The World Bank today approved three projects totaling US$108 million for Sri Lanka, consisting of US$50 million for the North East Local Service Improvement Project; US$40 million for the Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century Project; and US$18 million for the Sustainable Tourism Project.
“It is one year, almost to the day, since Sri Lanka’s nearly three decades long armed conflict ended,” said Naoko Ishii, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka is now in transition from a low-income country in conflict to middle-income country in peace. In many ways, these three projects aim at helping the country achieve this historic transformation – by bringing infrastructure services to the north and east, by leveraging untapped tourism assets in the east, and by helping create a well educated and competitive workforce.”
According to estimates, a mere 10-15 percent of road surfaces are intact in the North and East and less than half of the population in these two provinces has access to safe drinking water. The North East Local Services Improvement Project is designed to augment resource transfers and building capacity of local authorities, the bottom tier in the Government structure, so that they are well equipped to deliver much needed local services to the citizens in an accountable manner.
“This project will support repairing and rebuilding critical infrastructure – from rural roads, culverts and bridges to public buildings, waste disposal, and rural water supply,” said Seenithamby Manoharan, World Bank Sr. Rural Development Specialist and project team leader. “Importantly, all infrastructure projects will be identified and prioritized by the citizens themselves.”
The higher education sector currently faces a number of urgent challenges. Foremost among them is the inability of a large number of graduates to secure employment in the private sector due to a lack of soft skills, insufficient competency in the English language, and inadequate Information Technology skills. The Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century Project aims to improve the employability of graduates by enhancing the economic and social relevance, and the quality, of higher education institutions.
"This project is intended to improve the life chances of graduates by facilitating their entrance into well paid occupations in the private sector,” said Harsha Aturupane, World Bank Lead Education Specialist and project team leader.
In addition, the project will support the development of higher education institutions in the conflict-affected north and east. The project will also make resources available for activities that support reconciliation and ethnic harmony between members of different ethnic and religious communities in the higher education institutions.
The end of the armed conflict has also given a boost to the tourism sector, increasing tourist arrivals by 20 percent from June to December 2009, compared to the same period of 2008. Yet, the potential for the tourism sector in Sri Lanka is largely untapped, especially in the Eastern Province. The Sustainable Tourism Project aims to facilitate environmentally and socially sound investments in the tourism sector, focusing particularly on the eastern part of the country.
“The Eastern Province of Sri Lanka has an enormous tourism potential,” said Michael Wong, World Bank Private Sr. Sector Development Specialist and project team leader. “This project will help to expand economic opportunities in the East, making the tourism sector more competitive and inclusive while maintaining Sri Lanka's heritage and ecological environment.”
The project will also build capacity in the tourism sector’s institutional structure to improve efficiency in service delivery.
The credits from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, have 20 years to maturity with a 10-year grace period.