By Sugeeswara Senadhira/Daily News
Colombo, April 2: Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his telephone conversation with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this week, said that China can lend a hand to Sri Lanka in the eradication of poverty adding that China succeeded in ending extreme poverty among 99 million people.
President Rajapaksa said that the Hambantota Port Project and development of infrastructure facilities are continuing in a satisfactory manner and urged the government of China to complete the project. He said he is committed to putting the country on the track of prosperity within the next four years. “The eradication of poverty is my prime concern for which we can take a cue from China,” President Rajapaksa said.
On September 25, 2020, President Gotabaya launched the ‘Discussion with the Village’ (Game Samaga Pilisandara) program in Haldummulla in Badulla district. The core intention of this program is to meet the people of remote villages who have not been given due attention so far, and inquire into their problems, to bring them to the notice of officials and provide solutions. The ultimate aim of the program is to eradicate rural poverty.
Chinese President Xi Jinping had a similar program in which he continually conducted grassroots visits since he became President of China in the beginning of 2013. His program titled, “Precision Poverty Alleviation” began with a visit to Shi Ba Dong Village, Hu Heng County, Hu Nan province, which is a remote village, marked by rampant poverty.
Right after President Xi’s visit to this village, a national campaign to alleviate poverty with precise and sustainable solutions was developed. By December 2020, China has successfully eliminated extreme poverty for the first time in its 2200 year existence as a State.
Based on the experiences and successes achieved with the Precision Poverty campaign, China further developed its rural development mechanism to a comprehensive system called “Rural Revitalization”, launched in January 2018.
In January 2021, while still being challenged by domestic and international challenges caused by the pandemic, the Chinese government issued the No.1 Government Document to set “Rural Revitalization” as the top priority of the President Xi’s administration. China would like to share its experiences and solutions with other developing countries through innovative international cooperation.
President Xi has emphasized that the reason why his administration has put rural livelihood development and upgrading among its top priorities is because a really healthy and strong country or a human society cannot be formed without a solid foundation of the happiness of their people coming from different geographic and social backgrounds, especially the most vulnerable ones. This is not merely a mission of China, but the vision for human civilization.
Chief Researcher of International Research Center for NeoChina Socialism, Liu Yang Sloan, says there is vast potential to integrate China’s RR experiences into the Sri Lankan context and form a duplicate mechanism for other developing countries. It is believed that the system will be able to integrate international support and investment directly to even the most remote corners of the earth through cutting-edge technologies such as GIS and Blockchain.
“We will take a close follow-up look at this mechanism and see how such a miracle is happening here in Sri Lanka,” he added.
To develop a comprehensive and sound rural revitalization system which can deal with the complexity of the rural situation in each developing country is not an easy job. However, thanks to the joint work of the International Research Center of NeoChina Socialism , National Youth Service Council, Sri Lanka Telecom, Colombo Stock Exchange and a number of other technical and social institutions in Sri Lanka and China, an integrated RR mechanism called 3DRROS is currently under development in Sri Lanka, Liu said.
President Rajapaksa sought Chinese assistance for the establishment of a Technology University in Hambantota as a symbol of close and cordial relations between the two nations. With regard to cooperation in technology for economic development, Chinese Researcher Liu detailed the proposed cooperation under the academic enhancement campaign of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which has been widely accepted by the world to boost human, social and economic development for any specific region.
As the entire human race is facing unprecedented challenges caused but the COVID-19 pandemic, continuous out-of-box solutions must come on stage as soon as possible to meet the urgent needs of the people, especially the most vulnerable ones, he said.
All such solutions should be objective and STEM-based so that they can be delivered to the people efficiently to make some real changes.
Liu pointed out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has a sound technical background with his academic achievements while studying as an IT student in Colombo University and working as a Unix Solaris Expert in the USA. He has a clear understanding about the importance of integrating the STEM environment into the social development of Sri Lanka.
“Ever since the establishment of the Ministry of Technology and as the Minister, President Rajapaksa has emphasized the necessity to immediately equip Sri Lankan youth with STEM-related knowledge and skills to better deal with the current challenges and difficulties of their personal lives in national and international scenarios,” he said.
When it comes to Rural Revitalization, STEM means to bring all the cutting-edge technology to the rural area and make miracles happen, starting from satellite based smart agriculture to all sorts of agricultural equipment to comprehensive e-commerce mechanism which can link rural products to the world market efficiently, to smart classrooms which will pave a solid foundation for rural children so that they can have enough capabilities to change their lives.
Senior Advisor Hemal Dias of International Research Center for NeoChina recalled that since independence all the successive governments in Sri Lanka have focused on poverty alleviation with the introduction of many programs such as Janasaviya, Samurdi and Gamaneguma, but many people still live below the poverty line.
“The majority of our rural families are still poor. Droughts, floods, diseases, and economic shocks could drag huge numbers further into poverty. To lift themselves out of poverty, rural people need to learn new skills and one of our main tasks through the Rural Revitalization (RR) project in Sri Lanka is to help rural people learn and practice new skills so they can improve their incomes from their newly acquired expertise,” he explained.
During his telephone conversation on March 29, Chinese President Xi said China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to enhance the Belt and Road cooperation and contribute to the economic revival of Sri Lanka in the post-pandemic era. He said China will continue to provide necessary assistance to Sri Lanka, conduct cooperation in areas including aviation and education, and explore other potential cooperation areas.
The Chinese President said that China firmly stands by Sri Lanka in the face of unjust pressure exerted at various multilateral forums. President Rajapaksa thanked China for donating 600,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Sri Lanka. He also expressed his gratitude to President Xi and the Chinese Government for standing by Sri Lanka at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The President also appreciated the swap facility offered by the People’s Bank of China to the Central Bank and reiterated that this facility will lead to Sri Lanka’s financial stability.