UN expert notes concerns on impact of reforms in Sri Lanka

“The report notes that Sri Lanka’s public debt increased significantly in recent years. A three-year programme of $1.5 billion supported by IMF’s Extended Fund Facility was approved in June 2016, and a range of reforms and measures to maintain macroeconomic stability, including fiscal consolidation, were adopted. There is a consensus that greater mobilization of resources is necessary. It is my view that a more equitable fiscal system is also needed to expand the fiscal space and resources available for the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights,” he said.He also said that addressing illicit financial flows is also important and while Sri Lanka’s legal and institutional framework on the matter has been improved and strengthened, challenges remain in the effective implementation of existing legislation. The UN Independent Expert on Effects of Foreign Debt on Human Rights Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky today raised concerns about the impact of ongoing reforms on public spending and some social sectors.He also said that human rights impact assessments should be conducted systemically prior to the adoption of economic reforms in order to evaluate potential human rights risks and to avoid retrogression. The UN Independent Expert’s report on Sri Lanka was based on a visit he undertook to Sri Lanka last year. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky welcomed measures adopted to establish an interest rate cap and write off some micro debts taken on by women in specific droughts affected regions. The expert also said that besides fiscal deficit, recent measures have included important reforms in sectors, such as land, labour, social safety nets and State-owned enterprises.“I note that free health-care and education schemes were introduced in the 1940s and Sri Lanka made special efforts to maintain these important social policies over decades. Despite the will to preserve this legacy, I am concerned about impacts of ongoing reforms on public spending and some social sectors. My report recommends that human rights impact assessments should be conducted systemically prior to the adoption of economic reforms in order to evaluate potential human rights risks and to avoid retrogression,” he said.He also said that while having learned about the frequency and seriousness of lender abuses, he noted that women in particular have been affected in extreme ways, many becoming victims of reckless lending, over-indebtedness and outrageous exploitation. The UN expert expressed these views after submitting a report on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today during the ongoing 40th session. However, he said that as microcredit practices and abuses have not been limited to those regions, the scope of the policy should therefore be broadened. (Colombo Gazette)

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