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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Colombo Plan Budget Proposal Still Pending

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLM #0604 1750945
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230945Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8316

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000604

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INS AND IO/T

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR CPCTC UNODC CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: COLOMBO PLAN BUDGET PROPOSAL STILL PENDING

REF: SECSTATE 59714

1. SUMMARY: In a meeting convened solely to approve the budget,
the Colombo Plan failed to approve a proposed budget increase.
Bangladesh, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. objected to the increase
in membership dues. The remaining participating countries supported
the increase. (Note: Burma lacked official instructions and did not
vote.) The group hopes to gain consensus from all participating
members at the next scheduled meeting on August 10. End Summary.

2. On June 5, the Colombo Plan convened a meeting to discuss its
proposal to increase member countries' membership fees from $346,675
to $435,000. Underscoring reftel points, Emboff noted that the
proposed cost increases for overseas travel, furniture and
equipment, publications and commemorative programs were simply too
high. The Colombo Plan Secretary General (SecGen) countered U.S.
points as follows:

A. Costs for overseas travel: The SecGen stated that it is
necessary for Colombo Plan officers to meet appropriate host country
officials if Colombo Plan wants to increase membership and encourage
member countries to commit more resources. In addition, the
increase in new Colombo Plan programs will necessitate more travel
by its officers.

B. Costs for furniture and equipment: The SecGen noted that
Colombo Plan needs new office furniture and office equipment, such
as computers, fax and scanning machines, due to the increase of
staff in the Colombo Plan secretariat. She said these proposed
costs also include money for new furniture and decoration materials
for the library.

C. Costs of publications: The SecGen highlighted that Colombo Plan
is already distributing materials electronically; however, to
promote itself in the media and at international events with the
hope of expanding membership and garnering financial support, the
organization needs to increase hardcopy distribution of
publications. Colombo Plan currently prints and distributes 8,000
of its FOCUS newsletters, an increase of 6,000 over the previous
year.

D. Costs of commemorative activities: Colombo Plan wants to hold
representational events for members, participants, and interested
individuals to promote the organization and encourage additional
financial support. The Secretary General said that she would rather
not give the "usual Ceylon teabags" as souvenirs and would prefer to
gift a commemorative plate, mug, t-shirt, or pen to members and
participants. These funds would also be used to hold events that
would commemorate Colombo Plan's activities, such as its upcoming
reception on July 1 to celebrate the organization's 57th
anniversary.

3. Other than the U.S., Bangladesh, Japan and South Korea also
opposed the increase in dues. Bangladesh suggested that membership
fees not be increased for least developed countries. Japan stated
that its government supported a zero nominal growth budget in
international organizations. South Korea and Japan both questioned
the large increase in representational and travel funds. All other
participating countries supported the proposed increase in
membership dues, except for Burma which did not receive official
voting instructions. Vietnam and Singapore were not present at the
meeting, but had officially notified Colombo Plan of their support
in writing.

4. The June 5 meeting was presided by the Ambassador of Thailand
(acting President) and Secretary General Patricia Chia. Ambassadors
from Burma, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines and Thailand, and official
representatives from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, South
Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the U.S participated in the meeting.
Iran, a regular attendee, was absent. The Colombo Plan agreed to
convene a meeting on August 10 to finalize a decision of the
proposed budget. Embassy will forward the official minutes of the
June 5 meeting upon receipt from Colombo Plan.

5. Comment: The SecGen did not appreciate the U.S. stance against
the proposed increase and pointedly argued each reftel point. The
SecGen did not appear willing to consider lowering any of the budget
costs, and thus did not propose submission of a revised budget for
consideration to the members before the next meeting in August.
Other than a slight nod of agreement from the South Korean and
Japanese delegates, no other member voiced their support to the U.S.
position. Embassy believes that the SecGen is counting on the
approval from Burma and Bangladesh, which would then pressure the
remaining countries to concede and allow the necessary consensus for
the budget to pass.
MOORE

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