Sri Lanka celebrates 75th UNESCAP Anniversary | Daily News

Sri Lanka celebrates 75th UNESCAP Anniversary

The 75th Anniversary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) was celebrated together with the 78th session of the UNESCAP under the theme “A common agenda to advance sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific” held on hybrid mode from May 23-27 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok.

The Sri Lanka delegation for the celebrations and the 78th session headed by Ambassador and Permanent Representative to UNESCAP, C.A. Chaminda I. Colonne included the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, First Secretary A.W.S. Samanmali and First Secretary (Commercial) Vireshika Bandara of the Sri Lanka Mission in Bangkok.

Sri Lanka became a Member of ESCAP in 1954. On behalf of the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Government and the People of Sri Lanka, Ambassador & Permanent Representative to UNESCAP, Chaminda Colonne extended warm best wishes for 75th Anniversary of UNESCAP and placed Sri Lanka’s sincere appreciation to ESCAP for the continuous support given for its’ development throughout this long journey.

Sri Lanka’s country statement was delivered by Ambassador Chaminda Colonne. She stated that Sri Lanka has come to the 10th place out of 53 countries in the Asia-Pacific region in SDG data availability. In the South and South-West Asia region, Sri Lanka ranks at the 3rd place, showing its commitment to promote transparency and accountability through open SDG Data. She highlighted the increased public and private investments in renewable energy generation, beefed up efforts to strengthen transport connectivity, to provide clean drinking water, digital governance, stronger law enforcement and rights protection regimes through digitization and court automation, comprehensive legal reforms et. in Sri Lanka.

She further added that “Additional COVID-19 related spending in health for rapid vaccination and social protection measures including moratoriums on loans, tax reductions and other concessions, coupled with a significant drop in tourism revenue has resulted in a significant increase in the country’s fiscal deficit and public financing needs. Similarly, the pandemic significantly impacted on SMEs, 75 percent of the Sri Lankan economy and 45 per cent of the employment sector. The macroeconomic imbalances in the economy, which were triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic that unearthed long-standing structural issues, and the Sri Lankan economy is currently undergoing a distressed situation, in a level never experienced in its history. Political stability is currently being established gradually, significant monetary tightening by the Central Bank has been carried out recently while policy measures to stabilize the external sector are also being implemented”.

Central Bank Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe addressed the Ministerial segment on “Special Body of Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Pacific Island Developing States”. He stated that “Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures. The policy action that seemed extreme under normal circumstances might start to look highly appropriate during the times of economic adversity. The signs of crisis are looming all over the world and given the unfavorable conditions in the global economy, the developing countries should be prepared for the worse. After all, the crisis could be perceived as an opportunity to build up the resilience of the economy to avoid the future crisis by undertaking further structural reforms”.

During their deliveries, both highlighted that while meeting sustainable development goals remains a significant priority, the Central Bank has estimated a significant bridging financing of USD 6.3 bn requirement in the second half of 2022 to provide for the basic imports necessary to sustain the livelihoods of the country’s citizens and to keep the fundamental economic activities ongoing and Sri Lanka works closely with bilateral and multilateral partners for bridging finance.

Both further emphasized that international community and funding agencies can play a major role in supporting Sri Lanka during the adjustment period to restore the country’s fiscal and external sector stability while ensuring inclusive economic growth and development, going forward. They added that regional countries are an important part of the tourism sector and if travel advisories are issued to prospective tourists to Sri Lanka, the expected recovery in tourism will be imperiled. The Sri Lankan economy is envisaged to record a gradual recovery over the medium term. The regional countries may extend assistance to such recovery by providing preferential market access for Sri Lanka’s exports by lowering tariffs, providing/increasing quotas or implementing special procurement schemes, and helping Sri Lankan industries in which they are specialised by providing technical assistance. Concluding Sri Lanka’s country statement, Ambassador Chaminda Colonne emphasised that “Sri Lanka faces a significant immediate challenge to regain economic stability while also facing the challenge of identifying ways to finance the SDGs and to ensure that the hard-earned development outcomes are not reversed in the post-pandemic era. Hence, Sri Lanka would like to appeal to the Economic and Social Commission of the Asia Pacific Region to request their respective Government or a multilateral regional institution affiliated to ESCAP to put forward the current need of emergency financing of Sri Lanka as a priority item in the agenda.

The opening addresses were made by President of the 76th session of the General Assembly Abdulla Shahid, President of the Economic and Social Council Collen Vixen Kelapile, Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Heads of States/ Government of Thailand, Indonesia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Bangladesh, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Iran, China and Uzbekistan.

The Senior Minister, President of National Committee for ESCAP and First Vice President of Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance of Cambodia, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India, Minister for National Development Planning/ Head of Agency for National Development Planning of Indonesia, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lao, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, Ambassador & Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairsof Korea, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Minister of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan and the Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam attended the Session in person.

The five-day annual session attended by more than 500 participants from 51 Member States and associate members as well as other stakeholder groups, provided the opportunity to discuss and shape the future of regional cooperation centered on a new form of multilateralism and regional cooperation and to adopt the Bangkok declaration commemorating the 75th anniversary of the UNESCAP.

During the elections held in side lines of the 78th Session, Sri Lanka’s candidature Director General of Department of Agriculture of Sri Lanka S.H.A. De Silva was elected to the Governing Council of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (CSAM) for the term 2022-2024.

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