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FM hails US Corporation

9238d9568ee2c09f07b20333dc2bccf4_XLThe assistance offered through USAID, US Peace Corp and the House DemocracyPartnership Programme are some the initiatives we are working together with.Recently, the US Government approved the ForeignMilitary Financing as well asthe Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact Programme for Sri Lanka, whichWas put on hold, but we are looking forward to a new team coming to Sri Lanka next month and I’m hoping that the board meeting to be held in March will decideto give us that elusive compact again Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera Said yesterday.

Addressing the Opening ceremony of the American Corner in Matara the Minister further said that united States remain a steadfast and a strong friend in our efforts to achieve sustainable development and peace and security in Sri Lanka.Remarks made by the Minister of Finance at the Opening is as follows:Let me, first of all, warmly welcome Ambassador Alaina Teplitz to the city of Matara, presumably her first official visit to the South. Today is yet again a special day for Matara. By opening an American Corner in this city, we are now offered to be directly connected to the United States, where there are ample opportunities for business, education, cultural and other prospects.

In fact, two weeks back, I attended the opening of the Regional Consular Office in Matara under the Foreign Ministry that provides consular services to the public in this area. Now by having an American Corner here, this city is becoming an important centre of international activities in the Southern region.

Specially at a time when we endeavour to regain Sri Lanka’s historic role as a major trade, maritime, and shipping hub in the Indian Ocean, it is important to improve connectivity to the outside world. Matara had been since ancient times, known for its entrepreneur spirit and the old Dutch Fort here remains evident to a very active commercial centre in the Southern coastal belt. During the Dutch period, this area had been known for its cinnamon and coconut products. Even now, we export the world’s best cinnamon from here and I am sure there is a huge potential for such products to the United States.

The United States, being the largest export market for Sri Lanka, accounting over 25% of our total exports, the opening of an American Corner in Matara offers greater opportunities. As for the manufacturers and producers in the South, you have to seize this momentum with the support of the Matara Chamber of Commerce and Industry to expand trade, investments and exports to one of the best and largest markets in the world.

My Ministry has launched a few major support programmes for investments and small businesses to drive economic growth. As you know, Enterprise Sri Lanka offers over 20 subsidized credit schemes for entrepreneurship of up to Rs. 750 million for entrepreneurs as well as loans for women which are further subsidized in order to get them into the mainstream of business activity. Already over Rs. 70,000 million in new credit, just in the last six months, has been offered to SME’s, agriculture and service sectors. I hope our business community here in Matara are capable of utilizing these new opportunities to support the national economy.

Also, our Rapid Rural Development Programme “Gamperaliya” is being implemented throughout the country now. In Matara District alone, Rs. 2,100 million has been disbursed for small scale infrastructure development projects under Gamperaliya. We expect to revitalize our rural economy through Gamperaliya by improving the conditions of rural roads, irrigation, markets and community empowerment.

I must say the United States remain a steadfast and a strong friend in our efforts to achieve sustainable development and peace and security in Sri Lanka. Bilaterally, we have a very robust relationship through multiple activities, including the US-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue, which was initiated in 2015, when the then Secretary of State to the United States Mr. John Kerry came to Sri Lanka, the first Secretary of State to do so in 48 years was, I think, a high point of our relationship.

I must say your excellency, we almost pulled off the impossible by even having President Obama here in 2016. In fact, the date he gave for a one-day visit while visiting the region was the same day as the Vesak Day. It was the only day that was available for him and we had to regret it with great sadness because if he did come then, that certainly would have been a historical visit but I’m sure in the future one day, we certainly will have the President of the United States coming here to Sri Lanka.

And of course, the assistance offered through USAID, US Peace Corp and the House Democracy Partnership Programme are some the initiatives we are working together with. Recently, the US Government approved the Foreign Military Financing as well as the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact Programme for Sri Lanka, which was put on hold, but we are looking forward to a new team coming to Sri Lanka next month and I’m hoping that the board meeting to be held in March will decide to give us that elusive compact again.

I must thank Ambassador Alaina Teplitz and her team for the active engagement with our community, particularly in Matara, and the opening of this American Corner is yet another major step to improve people-to-people contacts.

Let me wind up my remarks by thanking everyone here for successfully arranging this event, particularly the Board Members of the Matara Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I hope you will utilize this new facility for the maximum benefit.  Thank you.

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