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Finance Minister of India launches new initiatives throughout Sri Lanka in diverse areas

Finance Minister of India Launches New Initiatives Across Diverse Areas in Sri Lanka

Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, led a five-member official delegation along with a high-powered business delegation, comprising senior functionaries of leading industry organizations like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICII), to Sri Lanka from November 1 to November 3, 2023.

During the visit, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid respects to the Chief Prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters, offered prayers at the sacred Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Temple in Anuradhapura, and Nallur Kandaswamy Temple in Jaffna. She was the Guest of Honour at the ‘Naam 200’ event marking 200 years of the arrival of the Indian-origin Tamil community to Sri Lanka. She also delivered the keynote address at an India – Sri Lanka Business Summit themed “Enhancing Connectivity; Partnering for Prosperity.” Additionally, she inaugurated branches of the State Bank of India in Trincomalee and Jaffna during the visit.

Discussions with the President of Sri Lanka on November 2, 2023, led to the exchange of bilateral documents, paving the way for the early commencement of projects under the USD 15 million grant announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries. The first project under this grant is the solar electrification of places of worship across Sri Lanka, with a grant allocation of USD 10 million. The MOU detailing the project was also exchanged.

Finance Minister Sitharaman announced in the ‘Naam 200’ event that the Government of India would send trainers to equip teachers in STEM subjects in plantation regions of Sri Lanka, as part of the SLR 3 billion multi-sectoral package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2023. This initiative aims to deploy qualified trainers from India to Sri Lanka for defined periods. She also outlined several other projects being rolled out under the package, including solar lanterns for plantation workers and stitching units for women’s self-help groups. In the education sphere, she initiated the supply of notebooks and school bags to 10,000 school-going children in the plantation regions and launched a project to distribute RO plants among schools to address drinking water problems in select schools.

In a significant milestone, she virtually launched Phase 4 of the flagship Indian Housing Project (IHP) for the construction of 10,000 houses for plantation workers, along with the President of Sri Lanka. This extension of the third phase complements the nearly 4000 houses already built in these regions. Notably, approximately 50,000 houses have been completed under IHP to date. Additionally, she virtually inaugurated the upgraded Thondaman Vocational Training Center in Hatton, along with President Wickremesinghe. The Government of India built several facilities in the Center and provided equipment, including desktop computers, towards imparting employable skills to the youth.

This visit is expected to provide further momentum to bilateral engagements in the economic sphere. Industry leaders from various sectors actively sought mutually beneficial investment opportunities and sustainable commercial partnerships in Sri Lanka. The Business Summit served as a platform for Indian and Sri Lankan business entities to come together and discuss future collaborations.

It is worth noting that Finance Minister Sitharaman played a pivotal role in advocating for Sri Lanka in IMF meetings in 2022, instrumental in enabling the IMF package for Sri Lanka. In her capacity as Finance Minister, her role in expediting the multi-pronged support of USD 4 billion by India last year was crucial.

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