World Bank Vice President for South Asia, Hartwig Schafer, today concluded a six-day visit to Sri Lanka, reiterating the World Bank’s commitment to support Sri Lanka’s inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasizing the importance of investing in human capital.
During meetings with the President of Sri Lanka, H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa; Prime Minister, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa; Minister of Finance, Hon. Basil Rajapaksa; and other senior officials, Schafer discussed the government’s priorities for Sri Lanka’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and key areas of World Bank support. Schafer also met with representatives of different political parties, senior project officials, the private sector, and development partners.
“The people of Sri Lanka have shown immense resilience and determination in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have heard stories about students who made dangerous climbs to get an internet signal strong enough to participate in online schooling, and about public health officials who went the extra mile to make sure vaccines reach the elderly,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia. “I applaud the spirit of the Sri Lankan people and commit to continued World Bank support as Sri Lanka builds back better.”
At a ministerial policy dialogue on Accelerating Human Capital in Sri Lanka: Ensuring Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development for Increased future Productivity and Economic Growth, Sri Lanka announced that it has joined the World Bank Human Capital Project. The meeting underscored the importance of accelerating human capital for inclusive economic growth. The World Bank, together with the Government of Sri Lanka and other development partners will work on addressing the health, education and social protection needs of Sri Lankans across every stage of life in an integrated and holistic manner.
“Sri Lanka can harness the opportunity of its human capital potential to become a competitive player in the global economy,” said Schafer. “I congratulate the Government of Sri Lanka for its commitment to invest in people to power the country towards a green, resilient and inclusive recovery.”
The pandemic has amplified an already challenging fiscal and macroeconomic situation. The government is working to address these challenges which have a disproportionate impact on those most at risk—the poor who bear the brunt of rising global food and oil prices.
H.E. President Rajapaksa discussed his vision to address these global pressures through his plans for an energy transition and to upgrade skills and the investment climate to respond to market demands. These are among the government’s policy priorities for scaled-up private investment to complement public investment and reduce pressures on the fiscal and external position.
Schafer also visited the UNESCO cultural heritage site, Galle Forte. The World Bank is helping to preserve the site through the Strategic Cities Development Project, which includes restoring and enhancing the site’s heritage value while also ensuring safety and flood protection. Schafer also observed efforts underway for flood management and to improve the livability of the city of Colombo, supported by the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project.
Schafer wrapped up his visit with the signing of the $500 million Inclusive Connectivity and Development Project, which will provide safe, climate-resilient roads to connect agricultural supply chains in Sri Lanka. On the sidelines of this signing, a special event was held in partnership with the Ministry of Highways to launch the Sri Lanka road safety report.