MonitorsPublished on Jul 06, 2009
Foreign aid reserves are at an all-time low in Sri Lanka. The island country requires foreign assistance to resettle millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and reconstruct war-ravaged areas of the northeast.
South Asia Weekly Report 79

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Reconstruction plans may be hit as foreign aid reserves touch all-time low

Foreign aid reserves are at an all-time low in Sri Lanka. The island country requires foreign assistance to resettle millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and reconstruct war-ravaged areas of the northeast. Till May Sri Lanka had received aid commitments of only US $147.7 million as against US $1,049.1 billion during the same period last year. The lower commitments are due to the island nation’s deteriorating relations with the West and Japan, which has been its largest donor. Though Canada and India have renewed their pledges to financially assist Sri Lanka in its reconstruction efforts, it still needs assistance worth billions of dollars to achieve its goal. In such a scenario, the government of Sri Lanka will have to reconsider its promise of resettling the IDPs within six months.

< class="maroontitle">Bangladesh foreign minister visits Delhi

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni made a short visit to New Delhi on July 9. Dr. Moni met Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherji and expressed her country’s concern over the issue of Tipaimukh Dam. The Tipaimukh Dam is proposed to be built in Manipur on Barak River, which feeds many small rivers in Bangladesh. It is feared that the dam might dry up such rivers. Indian leaders have assured that nothing will be undertaken by India that would be contrary to Bangladesh’s interests. The Tipaimukh issue has been at the helm of public attention in Bangladesh for a substantial period now. The government has been subjected to criticism for not adequately voicing the country’s concern over this issue to India.  Recently, two members of a group called Lamppost were arrested by the law enforcement agencies as they tried to gatecrash into the India High Commission in Dhaka. The group was staging a protest against the Tipaimukh Dam. The issue became complicated with Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) choosing it to be the main issue to launch an anti-government movement. BNP, on July 8, decided to send letters to the leaders of various countries to generate public opinion against the Dam internationally.

< class="maroontitle">Decentralization Bill debated

Several bills were introduced in the Majlis to changes the country’s political and social structure. A seven-hour discussion on the decentralisation bill ended without any conclusion. The bill aims at creating seven provinces out of the 21 atolls in order to provide them with councils having sufficient powers. Chapter Eight of the new constitution calls for devolved decision-making powers through elected councils, while jurisdiction and characteristics of constituencies, posts and councils must be specified in laws passed by the Parliament. While debating on a bill Attorney General Husnu Suood said that Chapter Eight provides that the country should have decentralized administration. Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and People’s Alliance consider the bill as unconstitutional and the one which can erode the “unitary” structure of the country. Some of them are of the view that bundling the different atolls together would lead to a dominance of the most populous atolls in the councils.
< class="maroontitle">Zardari takes a U-turn on Power Tariff
In the past week, the government of Pakistan was forced to make a U turn on policies regarding energy pricing due to intervention by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court on Monday (July 6) barred the government from inflating electricity tariff, and issued orders not to make changes for the time being. On Tuesday (July 7), the government was forced to suspend the implementation of a carbon surcharge. However, by reintroducing the Petroleum Development Levy (PDL) with slight changes, the government hopes to cut the budget deficit of PKR 722 billion ($8.83 billion), a prerequisite for continued assistance from the IMF. The opposition parties were quick to criticise the government for its ‘anti-poor’ policies. Pakistan Muslim League (N) chief Nawaz Sharif termed imposition of the carbon tax as a ‘mistake’ while PML-Q chief Shujaat Hussain also criticised the government for transgressing constitutional parameters.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                        – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee       – Bangladesh
      • Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti – Pakistan
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