Sri Lanka parliament approves ‘Aswesuma’ welfare plan

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament has approved a new welfare benefit plan which will consolidate existing social welfare schemes and allow beneficiaries to enter and exit depending on changing incomes. The proposal was approved by the parliament without a vote. “There are concerns that under the current welfare system, some who are truly in need are not getting support due to the lack of an effective mechanism to enter and exit welfare systems,” State Minister of Finance Shehn Semasinghe said. “The people who are paying taxes are questioning the transparency in using their taxes to pay these beneficiaries.” There have been concerns that under existing schemes, large numbers of newly poor do not get benefits, but a fixed set of beneficiaries, some of whom are no longer poor, are getting payments. About 3.7 million applications have been received, according to a government statement. The new welfare scheme is a requirement under a reform program with the International Monetary Fund. The World Bank is supporting the program. Under the program about 400,000 families identified as ‘severely poor ‘would receive payments of 15,000 rupees a month for three years from July 01, 2023. The program plans to provide about 800,000 recipients identified as ‘poor’ with 8,500 rupees a month for three years. Another 400,000 recipients identified as ‘transitional’ will get 2,000 rupees a month until December 2023 and 400,000 identified as ‘vulnerable’ will get 5,000 rupees up to March 2024. Separate benefits will be paid to disabled, kidney patients and the aged. In Early April this year, the government said it plans to spend 206 billion rupees a year on welfare benefits amidst the economic crisis recovery. (Colombo/ May 12/2023)