Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has claimed that the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement, which gives a grant of US$480 million dollars, will not be signed “even in his dreams” as controversy over the grant continues.
Rajapaksa, who stands accused of war crimes, stated that his administration’s policy is to “protect its sovereignty” and that it will not be influenced by other countries, according to a report in the Aruna Newspaper.
He further added that “India is a neighbour” and that “China is a friend”, stating that he will not agree for Sri Lanka to be used as a pawn to menace India.
The MCC partners with developing countries dedicated to good governance, economic freedom and citizen investment. The five-year grant for Sri Lanka was approved in April 2019, an occasion that was celebrated as a victory by the previous government.
In February 2020, Sri Lanka’s cabinet postponed the signing of the agreement; following the advice of a committee assigned to evaluate the agreement. The committee allegedly stated that although “MCC proposal includes the ability to raise the financial resources needed for investment in mitigating basic economic constraints of Sri Lanka burdened with debt and lacking capital resources, some of the projects proposed to be included in the program will have significant adverse impacts on the national, social and economic well-being of Sri Lanka.”
In June 2020, Mangala Samaraweera, the former Finance Minister who helped Sri Lanka attain the grant, accused the Rajapaksas of impairing international relations and claimed that the Rajapaksa government “threw democracy and human rights in the dust-bin”.
Sri Lanka’s refusal to sign the grant comes as the country suffers from a prolonged economic crisis, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
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