FM Nirmala Sitharaman pitches for economic integration with Sri Lanka

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Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman urged industry leaders to work towards economic integration with Sri Lanka to reduce the risk of foreign exchange crises and supply chain disruptions. She assured India’s continued support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring and economic recovery.

Sitharaman said that both countries could benefit from bilateral arrangements in areas such as logistics costs and essential goods. She also noted the growing global interest in bilateral agreements, given the volatility of the global economic situation.

She highlighted the potential for Sri Lanka to develop its solar and wind energy sectors, given the increasing demand for renewable energy investments. She cited India’s own experience in reducing the cost of solar power from Rs 14-15 per unit to Rs 2.45 per unit over the past 5-6 years.

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Sitharaman also spoke about the progress made on various connectivity projects between India and Sri Lanka, including the commencement of passenger ferry services, negotiations on an economic and technological cooperation agreement, and the upcoming launch of UPI-based digital payments. She emphasized the importance of these projects in building enduring bridges of experience and opportunities for the people of both countries.

She also highlighted India’s financial assistance of over $4 billion to Sri Lanka, making it the first bilateral creditor to provide financing assurance to the International Monetary Fund. This paved the way for other countries to provide similar assurances, which formalized the IMF programme for Sri Lanka.

Sitharaman also mentioned that India had already handed over 3,700 houses to plantation workers under the India-backed housing project scheme and laid the foundation stone for 10,000 houses under phase four of the programme. She also announced that India would soon send teacher trainers to work with local teachers to enhance their teaching skills and meet the growing needs and aspirations of students from the Malayaha Tamil community.

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Sitharaman concluded by stating that India would work closely with the Sri Lankan government to realize the vision of economic partnership outlined in the vision document released by the leaders of both countries in July 2023.

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