JICA President Tanaka Visited Sri Lanka


From February 13 to 16, JICA President Tanaka Akihiko visited the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. While in the country, he met with dignitaries including President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, signed an agreement to provide grant aid for the “Project for the Stabilization of Power Supply Using Renewable Energy at Hospitals,” visited the sites of JICA’s projects, and gave a special lecture for the JICA Chair (JICA Program for Japanese Studies) at the University of Colombo.

Sri Lanka, which is located in South Asia, and Japan have enjoyed a long, traditional friendship, and in 2022, the two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic relations. With its economy slumping due to major shocks to the tourism industry after a terrorist incident in 2019 and the subsequent spread of COVID-19, Sri Lanka announced a temporary suspension of repayments of external public debt in April 2022, signaling an unprecedented economic crisis. Although this has significantly impacted the lives of the people of Sri Lanka, various structural reforms and other initiatives to rebuild the economy are underway, and the country is currently negotiating with creditors regarding debt restructuring.

In his meeting with President and Finance Minister Wickremesinghe, President Tanaka stated that JICA would continue to support the various reforms of the Sri Lankan government aimed at economic recovery, and said that consideration would also be given to supporting vulnerable groups that had been particularly impacted by the economic crisis. President Wickremesinghe acknowledged that progress was being made by the Sri Lankan government in IMF programs and debt restructuring, and both parties confirmed the importance of timely economic reconstruction through the steady implementation of the aforementioned reforms. President Tanaka also expressed JICA’s willingness to continue strengthening the relationship between the two countries through people-to-people exchange.

Meeting with President Wickremesinghe (second from right).

The meeting with Prime Minister Gunawardena began with the prime minister expressing his gratitude to Japan for its support over many years, and noting the extremely important role of JICA’s cooperation in rural and regional areas, especially during the current economic crisis. In response, President Tanaka expressed his hope that the Sri Lankan government’s various reforms and debt restructuring efforts would continue to proceed smoothly.

Meeting with Prime Minister Gunawardena (fourth from right).

Meetings were then held with Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera, Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Jeevan Thondaman, and Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, with whom President Tanaka discussed issues in each of their sectors and future support, among other topics.

In addition, at the signing ceremony for the grant aid for the “Project for the Stabilization of Power Supply Using Renewable Energy at Hospitals,” President Tanaka signed a grant agreement with Secretary to the Treasury and Ministry of Finance K M Mahinda Siriwardana, who stated that this project would be a model case for the introduction of renewable energy in Sri Lanka, given that the government is considering bringing forward the current goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. In addition, President Tanaka expressed JICA’s hope that the project’s contribution to the stable supply of medical services at target hospitals would further develop the health sector, with which JICA has cooperated for many years.

The grant-aid signing ceremony for the “Project for the Stabilization of Power Supply Using Renewable Energy at Hospitals.”

In Anuradhapura, a city about 200 km northeast of the capital of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, President Tanaka attended the completion ceremony for the ODA-loan-funded “Anuradhapura North Water Supply Project (Phase1).” He congratulated those involved, crediting the hard work and cooperation of officials from both Japan and Sri Lanka for the project’s completion under such difficult circumstances as the economic crisis. President Wickremesinghe, who also attended the completion ceremony, expressed his gratitude for Japan’s support and his expectations that the project will improve the water supply as well as living standards for local residents. Following the completion ceremony, a visit was made to the site of the technical cooperation project called “Project for Livelihood Enhancement of Small and Medium Scale Agri Producers through Strengthening Supply Chain Structure,” which is also located in Anuradhapura. During this visit, target farmers reported on cases in which their incomes had increased through the project due to the cultivation of crops that better meet market needs, and also on the expansion of decision-making opportunities for women in relation to farming.

Completion ceremony for the “Anuradhapura North Water Supply Project (Phase1).”

President Tanaka also gave a special JICA Chair lecture at the University of Colombo on the theme of “International Relations under Compounded Crises,” which was attended by approximately 100 people, including professors and students from the university. During the panel discussion that followed the special lecture, many students expressed that they had gained insights into the current international situation, under which various crises are ongoing.

The special JICA Chair lecture at the University of Colombo.

JICA will continue to cooperate with Sri Lanka as it seeks to recover quickly from its current serious economic condition and achieve sustainable economic and social development.

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