Local News from Sri Lanka: Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday that the signing of the $480 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement would be postponed until after the presidential election and promised to present the agreement to Parliament shortly after November 16.
Speaking to reporters at the Ministry of Finance, he clarified that after the presidential elections, the MCC agreement would be submitted to Parliament for debate and vote. He said that no agreement would be concluded without Parliament first passing it. Samaraweera defended the approval of the MCC agreement by Cabinet, attributing it as a requirement before the next meeting of MCC executives on 2 December, which would allow the government to secure funding for the beginning of next year. His remarks came in the wake of yesterday’s demonstrations against the MCC before the U.S. Embassy.
He said that much of the misinformation shared on the MCC’s social media platforms was wrong, claiming that there was no plan to allow U.S. military forces to camp in Sri Lanka and no plans to sell land to Americans. The Finance Minister challenged anyone in the agreement to find a provision to that effect, claiming that if such terms were to be found, he would quit politics. The minister charged that Namal Rajapaksa, a parliamentarian, was behind the campaign for social media.
The $480 million grant will be used to develop road infrastructure, establish a new traffic management system for Colombo and suburbs, and map and digitize and catalog land for development in eight districts, he explained. “The funds will be spent on projects based on the prioritization of our government that we have suggested to them,” he said. According to a survey conducted by the University of Colombo, the minister pointed out that the estimated cost of congestion on the Sri Lankan economy is likely to rise to over one trillion rupees in the coming years. “That’s why we made a traffic management system a priority,” he said.
In response to a question, Samaraweera said that there was an exit clause in the agreement where both parties could offer 30 days ‘ notice and leave the agreement if they wanted to.