UN official calls for some G8 funds to be directed towards Haitian

The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for some of the $20 billion pledged last year by the world’s biggest economies to help farmers in poor countries buffeted by the global recession to be directed towards Haiti as it recovers from January’s catastrophic earthquake.Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO, said a rural development programme in Haiti would be a deserving candidate for some of the funds which the leaders of the so-called G8 group of economies pledged to provide at a summit in Italy in July last year.“It is not a question of creating new organizations or institutions,” Mr. Diouf said in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, following a four-day visit to neighbouring Haiti to assess the situation and the prospects for recovery in the wake of the quake, which killed an estimated 230,000 people.“Since the beginning, the Minister for Agriculture has competently and efficiently led operations to revive production and rehabilitate the agricultural infrastructure. What we need before anything else is a programme document agreed by the beneficiary country and the donor countries.”FAO and the Haitian Government have prepared a plan for revitalizing the country’s agricultural sector that calls for $721 million of investment focused on three tracks: the development of rural areas, the production and development of distribution channels, and agricultural services and institutional support.Given the criteria and commitments made at the summit in Italy last year, Mr. Diouf said, “Haiti could be considered one of the recipient countries” of the G8 funds. The country depends heavily on agriculture, with the sector accounting for more than a quarter of national economic output.While in Haiti, Mr. Diouf met with President René Préval, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, Agriculture Minister Joanas Gué and other senior officials.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also visited at the weekend to assess the situation and today he told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York that “we at a critical moment” in Haiti, as emergency relief gives way to early recovery and reconstruction.“We need a concrete, well-thought-out plan for the future,” the Secretary-General said, pointing to the international donors’ conference for Haiti to be held in New York on 31 March.“During a visit to a camp for displaced persons in Port-au-Prince, I saw nearly 50,000 people crowded into a tent city on a former golf course. When the rains come – as they will in a very few weeks – the entire site will be flooded. We have plans for moving these people to safer ground, and for erecting better shelter, but we need the world’s help.” 16 March 2010The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for some of the $20 billion pledged last year by the world’s biggest economies to help farmers in poor countries buffeted by the global recession to be directed towards Haiti as it recovers from January’s catastrophic earthquake. read more

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe visits Indian temple to offer prayers

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe offered prayers at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara in the Tirumala town in India today.The 69-year-old Wickremesinghe, dressed in traditional attire and accompanied by wife Maithree and a few Sri Lankan officials, visited the shrine this morning, a temple official told PTI. Tight security arrangements were put in place in view of the visit to Tirumala hills. (Colombo Gazette) This is his third visit as Sri Lanka’s prime minister to the hill shrine after previously coming here in 2002 and 2016. On arrival, he was accorded a traditional welcome by priests and top officials of the temple, administered by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Wickremesinghe here on a 20-hour spiritual visit, flew in from Chennai by an IAF helicopter last evening. read more