Poverty alleviation is the first of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. However, the three decades of progress in poverty alleviation hit the COVID-19 pandemic wall (World Bank, 2022). This was further exacerbated by longstanding macroeconomic mismanagement in countries such as Sri Lanka. Counting the poor is the first step in poverty alleviation (The Economist, 2023). Deaton (2016), for example, notes that recording details of how people live, their consumption patterns, and their expenditure has long served as a tool, sometimes a political one, that aimed to bring the living conditions of the impoverished to the attention of those in authority, to evoke shock, and to advocate for reform.
Draft paper, open for comments Many countries use multidimensional approaches to determine eligibility for social assistance programmes. However, monetary-based metrics remain a key tool used for measure poverty. It is crucial to understand the linkages between the two, to understand how best to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the social assistance programmes. This paper looks to explore the relationship between the 22-indicator deprivation score used in Sri Lanka to determine eligibility for its key social assistance programme, Aswesuma, and the national poverty line, measured using per capita consumption expenditure, drawing on a nationally representative survey. It concludes that the deprivation score has a positive, but weak to moderate, relationship with expenditure-based poverty, and discusses implications for policymakers.
In our blogpost with Citra Labs, we explore the role digital and data can play in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of social safety nets (social assistance) in Sri Lanka.
(Note: This was originally published in the Daily FT) The Director General of the Department of Samurdhi released a circular on 29 August stating that monthly cash transfers to senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and kidney patients must be administered through Samurdhi banks from September 2022. In practice, this will occur from October. This disbursement mechanism deviates significantly from that used earlier, where each of these schemes had different collection points. Samurdhi banks were used exclusively as distribution points for the Samurdhi monthly cash transfers. Senior citizens’ allowances, PWD benefits and kidney patients’ allowances were disbursed via post offices, State banks and divisional secretariats, respectively (Table 1).
Gayani Hurulle participates in panel on Connecting the Unconnected at APrIGF 2022 in Singapore
The fragmented social protection system in Sri Lanka has been in need of reform for many years. There is a need to reform many areas, including targeting and the delivery of benefits — areas we have, and continue to, stress the importance of. The specific reforms that we prioritise may differ in the short and long term. The current economic crisis (which has thrown millions into poverty) has highlighted the gaps in the system. In this light, ensuring that the cash transfers are adequate to meet the needs of individuals and all those who need assistance are covered by the programme are key.
I was invited to speak on Social Safety Nets in Sri Lanka on ‘The People’s Platform’ a 45 minute live TV programme on NewsFirst. I drew on LIRNEasia’s research on the area to highlight problems in targeting the poor and the possibility of using bank accounts and mobile technology to deliver benefits to the poor.
Slides presented at the Advocata Institute’s #ReformNow conference on 5 August 2022
Gayani Hurulle discussed LIRNEasia's research on social safety nets in Sri Lanka on an 'AdvoChat' organized by the Advocata Institute.
LIRNEasia Chair Rohan Samarajiva and I were invited to share our experiences at a UNESCAP capacity building workshop on Universal Service Fund modernization on 23 June 2022. Government officials from over 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific attended the two-day programme. Other speakers at the session included Atsuko Okuda (Regional Director, ITU-D), Charles Pierre Marie Hurphy (Senior Digital Development Specialist, World Bank), and John Garrity (Chief of Party, USAID BEACON Activity). In our talk, we discussed (i) how assess the performance of USFs and (ii) how to design good USFs. See our slides here.
I recently participated in a panel discussion on “Health Communication: Risk & Strategies during COVID-19” at the International Communications Association (ICA) Conference (South Asia Regional Hub) on 29 May 2022. This session was also streamed at the main ICA Conference in Paris. The session was chaired by Manjula Venkataraghavan of the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Other panelists included Hezekiel Deamini of UNESCO, and Communications Practitioner, V. V.
LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galapaya and Chair Rohan Samarajiva participated in an online webinar on Social Safety Nets on 8 May 2022. Former Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, A. R. Deshapriya was also on this panel organised by the National Movement of Social Justice, and moderated by Harindra B. Dissanayake.
Slides presented at the Education Forum Policy Dialogue (#20) on Education Post-Pandemic on Saturday, 26 March 2022
LIRNEasia recently participated at Education Forum Sri Lanka’s Policy Dialogue on Education Post-Pandemic (#20) held on Saturday, 26 March 2022. I drew on our 2021 nationally-representative survey to discuss students’ access to technology and education during early pandemic-induced school closures. We found that only 63% of students enrolled in primary and secondary education had access to online education in Sri Lanka. Online education could range from students participating online real time classes through applications such as Zoom, Google Meet or Teams, or getting notes/activities from WhatsApp groups. Impact of exams on access Our survey showed that students due to sit for Advanced Level and Scholarship examinations were most likely to have studied online.
Access to education became a widespread concern with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. And rightly so. A survey of Indians that we at LIRNEasia and ICRIER conducted between March and September 2021 shows that only 20% of school-aged children (i.e. those between the ages of 5-18) who were enrolled in the formal education system received remote education during pandemic-induced school closures.
Successful reform of telecom (or information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure) sectors requires ex-ante, sector-specific regulation under present market and technological conditions. Theories and concepts relevant to regulatory agency design and the practice are not nation-specific.