Published On: Mon, Dec 17th, 2018

Some development projects plunges country into debt trap – CEJ

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) slammed some of the major projects undertaken by previous Governments as burdening the country and plunging it into a debt trap. “The Uma Oya diversion project is a case in point. It was launched during the previous regime without a feasibility study being done. By December 2014, the Iranian gift became a death trap as well as a debt trap for villagers in Bandarawela”, Executive Director of the CEJ, Hemantha Withanage explained.

“Considering failed projects such as the Mattala Airport and the Hambantota Harbour, and some other partly successful projects such as Moragahakanda and Yan Oya, half of the national debt could be considered as illegitimate debt which includes loans that: were knowingly given to oppressive regimes causing harm to the public, environment and communities, violated human rights and exploited the vulnerability, impoverishment and misfortune of others. The accumulation of both legitimate and illegitimate debt in Sri Lanka in recent times have caused enormous pressure on the country which the citizens often see as tax increases and the increase of the prices of food and services,” Withanage noted.

“It is unfortunate that development decisions in Sri Lanka have little or no public acceptance. There is no educated voice in Parliament or such a dialogue happening in the country to select the development we need. Unfortunately, development decision making is in the hands of a handful of corrupt politicians. Past experience shows us that bureaucrats have no say in these decisions or either they are corrupt too. It is paramount to correct the system and clean politics before Sri Lanka gets drowned in this deep debt crisis”, he added.

The CEJ claimed that the shortcomings in developmental projects which occurred in previous decades under Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Maithripala Sirisena were not only harmful to the environment but had also entangled the country into a debt trap.

Withanage revealed that some major development projects didn’t even have a feasibility study with regard to the project. The developers of both private and public projects expect the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process to deal with the feasibility as well but there is no way that the EIA teams can fulfill the task of making both the feasibility and EIA reports, he said.

Withanage opined that development decisions should have more public acceptance and should be more open to the public.