Photograph: Twitter @SwissAmbLKA
The European Union (EU) announced it would provide a grant of €22 million to Sri Lanka to help support its struggling economy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak after ambassadors met with Basil Rajapaksa this week.
“Sri Lanka’s very low number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far is impressive,” the EU said in a statement. “To support Sri Lankan efforts further, the European Union is targeting three sectors: health, agriculture and tourism.”
The announcement came after ambassadors from several European countries met with Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president’s brother who was appointed head of a Presidential Task Force this week.
A 2007 leaked US embassy cable noted that Basil “worked for the Ministry of Mahaweli Development, where he earned the nickname "Mr. Ten Percent" for demanding a ten percent commission on every project”. “Embassy contacts say Basil has no close advisors and more enemies than friends in Sri Lanka because he makes a habit of trying to "buy people”,” the cable added, noting that at the time “Basil continues to be accused of significant corruption in his current position”.
Despite concern’s over Basil’s corrupt past the EU pressed ahead with the grant, the bulk of which would be Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector. “In these trying times, maintaining open trade and safeguarding the supply chains, especially agricultural and health supply chains, is essential to the well-being of the population,” said the EU, with EUR 16.5 million for the agricultural sector.
The EU will be providing a further €2 million for equipment and medical supplies to be procured by the World Health Organisation and a €3.5 million grant for the tourism industry.
See the full EU press release here.