- Minister claims NPC has ‘other priorities’
- TNA must work with powers they have before asking for more devolution: Basil
- Says NPC can do much more with funds allocated
- Calls for NPC to cooperate with Economic Development Ministry
- Blames PC for railway link delays to Jaffna
By Dharisha Bastians
Observing what he called a ‘slowdown’ of development activities in the north, powerful Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday called on the Northern Provincial Council to cooperate with his Ministry to push the process forward.
Minister Rajapaksa said that his understanding was that the Northern Provincial Council was not very interested in development, because they had more important priorities.
“But my own view is that people’s needs are more important than politicians’ needs. We need to attend to the people’s needs and then they can continue to fight for the things they want,” he added.
His Ministry was eager to cooperate with the Northern Provincial Council to accelerate development, Minister Rajapaksa observed.
“There is a lot we can do together,” he asserted, complaining that so far such cooperation had not been possible.
Asked if progress was slow because the Council needed more powers, the Minister insisted that the provincial council was sufficiently empowered to deal with agricultural, health and educational needs in the region.
“With the amount of funds allocated to the Northern Provincial Council, there is a lot more they can do,” he remarked.
“Perhaps it is a lack of experience or a lack of interest,” the Minister told journalists insisting he was not making accusations against the TNA-run Northern Provincial administration.
He did not want to hinder whatever cooperation the central Government and the TNA-run Council was striving to achieve by saying too much about the issue, the Minister added.
Minister Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the ‘Northern Spring’ development drive, blamed provincial and local council delays for holding up major infrastructure projects, including the completion of the rail link to Jaffna and Kankesanthurai.
“If we were doing it, by now the railway link would have been complete all the way up to Kankesanthurai, but as it is, the Jaffna phase will be complete in September this year,” he noted during a press conference at the Media Ministry auditorium yesterday.
Small provincial roads constructed by people of the area were obstructing the track-laying, the Minister said. “The provincial council and the pradeshiya sabhas need to assist to remove these roads and pave the way for the track,” he explained.
The TNA administration in the north has consistently claimed that the Government’s mega development projects in the region had not met the people’s most immediate needs.
Divi Neguma to delight with on-the-spot cash
- Basil insists launch of pro-poor credit facility has no connection to Uva poll
- Claims low interest credit scheme was one of Divi Neguma Dept’s first goals
- Minister urges NPC to cooperate to provide credit facility to northern beneficiaries
- Loans to be disbursed on ‘spot cash’ system, no wait time, 4% interest
The Government will unveil a pro-poor credit scheme across the island on 1 September at special interest rates of 4% for up to Rs. 50,000 in instant cash.
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa announced yesterday that the Divi Neguma Department has allocated Rs. 13.55 billion for the ‘Sahana Aruna’ credit scheme, drawn from its own funds.
“This amount of funding ensures we can give the minimum loan amount of Rs. 5,000 to every single eligible beneficiary, if they should choose to apply,” the Minister said, addressing a press briefing at the Media Ministry auditorium.
Only Divi Neguma Development beneficiaries will be eligible for the loan, which will require no guarantors, collateral or extensive documentation for processing.
Minister Rajapaksa said 2.7 million Divi Neguma beneficiary families will be eligible to apply for credit. He said the application process would be simple and based on the recommendation of Divi Neguma Development Officers of the specific Grama Sevaka Divisions.
“A large section of society will benefit from the credit scheme,” the Minister said, adding that the credit scheme was one of the first goals set by the Divi Neguma Department when it was established.
The pro-poor program kicks off exactly 20 days before the Uva Provincial elections, with the Moneragala and Badulla Districts showing high poverty rates, but Minister Rajapaksa insisted the two matters were unconnected.
Asked if the credit scheme was being timed to target the Uva polls, Minister Rajapaksa said the loans would be made available to beneficiaries across the island. He declined to discuss the impact the new scheme would have on the Government fortunes in Uva, saying he was addressing the press conference in a Government building that could not be used for electioneering purposes.
“This scheme will be more beneficial to the north than to Uva,” he quipped.
Minister Rajapaksa said that he had urged Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran to cooperate with the department to serve beneficiaries in the North during his visit to Jaffna on Wednesday (27).
Under the terms of the scheme, the credit will be disbursed in an on-the spot-cash system, with applicants receiving the loan the very same day. The Economic Development Minister said the Department had requested the Central Bank to issue new currency notes for the first beneficiaries under the scheme.
Repayments will begin only one year after the credit is disbursed. The scheme will be facilitated through 1,073 Divi Neguma Micro Finance Banks functioning under the Divi Neguma Department. On 1 September, ceremonies in this connection will be held at the micro finance banks in 327 secretarial divisions throughout the country.
Beneficiaries can also apply for loans for other needs, including emergencies and debt repayment, but the processing for those loans will take up to three days, the Minister explained.