What is the best way to measure poverty

Posted on February 13, 2017  /  0 Comments

The government of Sri Lanka has increased spending on the leading welfare scheme Samurdhi, from LKR 15 billion in 2014, to LKR 43 billion in 2016, almost a tripling. There are 1.4 million beneficiaries, classified into those can be graduated out of the scheme, those who cannot, and those in between. Apparently, another 1 million people are clamoring to be included in the scheme.

In this seven-minute speech made in a Parliament recently, Dr Harsha de Silva provides a quick comparison of the three principal methods of ascertaining poverty. He comes out in favor of an assessment based on expenditure, and against reliance on asset ownership and one based on income.

The speech (in Sinhala)

We have been engaged with these issues almost from the inception of LIRNEasia. After a bit of a bad experience with the income-based method in the pilot survey we conducted in the Jaffna District in 2005, reported in the chapter entitled “I just called to say: Teleuse under a ceasefire” in our 2008 book, we have generally been fans of the expenditure-based method so we are not surprised by Dr de Silva’s stance.

It is refreshing to hear of substantive discussion of method in a Parliamentary discussion of poverty.

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