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Controversial Millennium Challenge deal to be made public – Presidential Secretariat

ECONOMYNEXT – The former government signed two agreements connected to the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) and was granted USD10 million which has not been accounted for, a committee that studied the matter has reported.

A Media release issued by the Presidential Secretariat last night June 25, said the last government had signed the agreements in 2017 and 2018.

The report which has been 6 months in the making was produced by a committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and is headed by Economics Professor Lalithasiri Gunaruwan of the Colombo University.

The President has now declared that the MCC will now be made a public document for Sri Lankans to study and comment.

The MCC deal brings a grant of USD480 million over a five-year period which according to the MCC website will be spent on “reducing poverty through economic growth.”

The Compact “seeks to assist the Sri Lankan Government in addressing two of the country’s binding constraints to economic growth” which the US organisation has identified as inadequate transport logistics infrastructure and planning; and the lack of access to land for agriculture, the services sector, and industrial investors.

It also envisaged a digitizing of land records and a comprehensive survey that would help maximize the use of available state lands.

Gunaruwan reported that the Land Commissioner had noted that the agreement cannot be implemented according to the existing laws of the land. He added that a multi-sectorial analysis of the implications of the agreement had not been carried out.

During last year’s Presidential Election the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna made opposition to the MCC deal a major plank in its campaign.

SLPP leaders warned Sri Lankans the deal would mean the US would be granted total land rights for a swathe of Sri Lanka from the Western Province to Trincomalee and Southerners would need to get a visa from the USA to go on pilgrimage to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

Gunaruwan’s report did not contain that point that the Rajapaksa campaign hammered into the electorate.

The economics professor however warned in his report that once the MCC deal is instituted through an Act of Parliament it will be illegal for a counter proposal or amendments to be made.

The committee chair also said that according to the agreement, two representatives of the MCC could change the conditions of the deal and the Attorney-General could not oppose such a change in court.

The grant also hinges on democracy and good governance practices of the recipient country.

US officials have in recent times have indicated that it expects the new administration to sign the deal after the Parliamentary General Elections in August. (Colombo, June 26, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana