Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has renewed calls for international monetary organizations to provide debt relief for developing countries. The Prime Minister made these remarks during a meeting with representatives from the United Nations and UNICEF in Sri Lanka at Temple Trees yesterday (Jan. 26).
The U.N. delegation was meeting Prime Minister Rajapaksa to propose strengthening Sri Lanka’s social protection system through a universal child benefit and by prioritizing the most vulnerable sectors of the population that includes children, the elderly and persons with special needs, noting that this would help families and help lessen the impact of the recession.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa agreed that there is a need for social protection for vulnerable sectors of the population following the catastrophic effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic. Pointing out that the Government of Sri Lanka always prioritizes the needs of children, the Prime Minister also spoke about the impact of having to shut down schools for months during the COVID-19 pandemic and the added consequence of children being deprived of the school nutritional program.
In order to address these concerns, the Prime Minister said, all developing countries will need assistance from international monetary organizations. The current crisis is causing immense strain on every nation’s economy, he said, especially those of emerging and developing countries. Prime Minister Rajapaksa said organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should prioritize the possibility of offering such debt relief.
Last month, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, during the online summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), also called for a collective effort to urge international financial institutions to provide debt relief for countries heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The U.N. delegation acknowledged the significant impact debt relief would have in post COVID-19 recovery and commended the government for its response to the Coronavirus outbreak thus far.
The “whole of government response” is a “remarkable example,” said U.N.Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer, noting they “appreciate the way all of government has been responding” to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Response of the government has been extraordinary,” said Tim Sutton, UNICEF Representative for Sri Lanka. The “wonderful health care system that was able to deliver” during the Coronavirus outbreak has made Sri Lanka the “envy of Asia. As a foreigner, I feel so safe, well-protected and privileged to be here.”
Last year, following the Easter Sunday attacks, Prime Minister Rajapaksa collaborated with UNICEF to walk with school children as they went to school to ease fears of returning to normalcy after the attacks. The Prime Minister again collaborated with UNICEF last month to answer questions posed by children on social media about COVID-19 to ease fears about returning to the “new norm” after the pandemic.
Prime Minister’s Media Division