20 July, 2024


In Sri Lanka, Chaotic Social Security Reform Denies People’s Rights: “Aswesuma” Program Applies Complex & Arbitrary Targeting, Leaving Millions In Limbo

By Sarah Saadoun

Sarah Saadoun

Last month, Sri Lanka’s electricity company cut power to Shanti’s home in a town near Colombo, where she lives with her sixteen-year-old son. Shanthi lost her job last year during a severe economic crisis still roiling the country, and now earns 300 rupees (US$0.95) per day – around half her previous wages – as a domestic cleaner.

The crisis, which led to the government defaulting on its debt, also triggered soaring inflation, including for food, and Shanthi and her son began relying on her employers and relatives to eat. At the same time, in late 2022, her monthly electricity bills started to rapidly increase, more than doubling in a few months, leaving her unable to pay her bills. Now she and her son sleep in the living room of her mother’s apartment, where her brother and his two sons already live.

The Sri Lankan government raised electricity tariffs in August 2022 and February 2023 as part of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a $3 billion loan. It also doubled value-added taxes and phased out fuel subsidies, contributing to a spike in prices. The IMF program acknowledges the risks these measures pose but says they are necessary to improve the government’s finances and that “all program measures are mindful of the need to protect the most vulnerable.” Specifically, the program requires the government to overhaul the country’s cash transfer program, called Samurdhi, and allocate a minimum amount of funding to four cash transfer programs.

But this overhaul, implemented with the support of the World Bank, has made a bad situation worse for Shanthi and thousands of other families. In July, she didn’t receive her usual monthly benefit of 3,000 rupees ($9.50) from Samurdhi and was told to reapply for a new program, called Aswesuma, which she did but she has yet to receive a response. The minister of finance has said this week the government will begin to review the 968,000 appeals and 17,500 objections it received for Aswesuma.

Research has shown that programs like Aswesuma that target people based on economic status are prone to errors, arbitrary cut offs, corruption, and social mistrust. Instead, governments should establish universal systems not tied to economic status that provide income support to everyone at critical moments throughout their lives.

For Shanthi, the stakes could not be higher. “I became completely destitute…. Sometimes I feel it’s impossible to live.”

*Sarah Saadoun, Senior Researcher and Advocate, Poverty and Inequality at Human Rights Watch

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Sarah Saadoun seems to be new to the job. She peeped from her Colombo Hotel and collected some info and put it together. I do not know if the author knows Langkang is the 10th last country out of 125 Least Developed countries (LDC). In other world, i.e., Only 10 other great nations are below Langkang, those cannot handle any development projects. Another one report says Langkang is the 3rd least income earner in its hemisphere, Asia. IMF is getting involved in this mess only to ensure that the War-Genocide crimes on the Rowdy is getting nowhere. From the UNHRC’s investigation, HRW knows more than needed about what is going on in Langkang. But only once in a while HRW lifts its head and shouts, “I too present”. Shanti is much better off because she has a chance to tell her plight to the tourists who come to Colombo, but there are people living 250 miles away from Colombo, controlled by a 2:1 armed force who are 450 thousand beastly men, a security service, fed by Chinese loans and its sister organization called IMF’ loans. Can the author go to the up country and investigate the life of Estate Tamils , the only working members of that society, the mothers, who cannot make $2.5 per day on behalf of her whole family!

  • 0

    It is mainly that such poor’s money, the EPF fund, the IMF Shylock stole this time. Samurdhi & Aswesuma are purposely made as Sinhala Only programs so Tamils cannot understand what those curses are and will not dare to fight for share in them. Samurdhi was purposely created to beat the constitutional part of 13A, which was added to the constitution so Tamils will have their fair share on these programs. Mr. 40% and Old Rowdy King had hired Lemon Puff Weera to dismiss CJ Shirani Bandaranayake because she objected to this Samurdhi game because it was violating the constitution (13A). That time the American Ambassador asked the Justice Minister Hakeem to resign because of the Tamil MPs’ revelation in the Parliament that he had a reasonable involvement in firing a country’s CJ, just like that. At that time all international communities were babysitting the major plunders of the country. It seems the West was happily watching Old Rowdy Royals depositing about $20B in their banks. Now that money has no way of coming back to the country because the West doesn’t want to investigate and return the poor country people’s money to them, but they prefer to keep the deposits in their banks. In addition, they are pushing the IMF forward to shed crocodile tears for the Modaya losers.

  • 0

    Now China’s Shylock sister, the Western IMF is roasting the poor, before it gives any loan to Kleptocracy Appe Aanduwa. The IMF’s behavior of roasting the poor before giving any loan is in a Tamils’ story. ” Once a guru gave a clay pot to one of his disciples and told him to fetch water for the Ashram. He warned the kid to be careful with the pot and not to break it. Then he gave three hard knocks on the head of the child. It was so painful for the small one, so he asked, “why sir, what wrong I did”. The Guru said, “I did not say that you did anything wrong, but I said not to make any mistake”. The child argued, “I didn’t break the pot sir; so still, I don’t get why you knock me.” The Guru roared “Yes, I see that, but what is the point if I knock you after you have already broken the pot? That is why I gave you knocks already, and you will be careful with my pot. Still IMF seems to be standing more justified than the Guru, because IMF has already seen what has happened to the Chinese and Indian loans, which are already deposited in Western Banks, so it seems, IMF wants to be more methodical on having its loans recollected, without much hassle.

  • 0

    The Langkang’s problem is not about money, it is about the Sinhala Buddhism. What the heck IMF official knows about the Sinhala Buddhism & Mahavamsa, which had created a unique community by forcing a rich lady to sleep with a wild lion? In that condition, how the IMF will understand why Ganapathi Pillai is now scraping off Mahavamsa, and holding the Ramayana high, claiming the Yaka Parai Demulo Ravana as a Sinhala Holy Man. Ganapathipillai attacked the Indian Aryan storytellers as “enemies” who wrote low about the Sinhala Buddhist Dutugemunu Ravana. When Demolu Ravana Chakli stole the Ariyan Woman Sita, it was only one woman. But could one make the names of the Tamil women the Ariya Sinhala Buddhist Rapist Army stole and earned a name “The Army uses rape as Weapon”? Ravana Chakli didn’t touch Sita fearing he would be burned. But the Rapist Army regularly planted bombs after they fished with the stolen Tamil women, to confuse the medical personal test for DNA.
    IMF officials may know something about Economics, business and Finance. But how much is their knowledge in Sinhala Buddhism? Why did they get into the business of delaying or completely nullifying the Rowdy Royals getting investigated?

  • 0

    All these IC Vandavalams gave money for the 2006 tsunami to Chandrika, and she let the Royals manage the money. Rowdy King formed a fraudulent agency called Hangbangtota Fund and put all that in his pocket. The CJ investigated the case that time thought Rowdy King was an ideal Sinhala Buddhist savior to become as EP and dismissed the case, freed Old Rowdy King to stand in the election. When CJ Buffoon became disappointed with the War Criminal EP, probably because of not sharing enough with him, publicly declared that he saved the Hangbangtota fund thief & who no longer cared for the CJ Buffoon.

    What to say. No point in going further; but it sounds childish to see a baby struggling to say the letters A B C. It seems it is better to return to the country in time. Otherwise, the Evil Emperor will find a solid reason to put in prison. Everybody knows what happened to the Swedish Embassy worker, a woman, who has been issuing visas to policemen to escape to the EU, because they had investigated the Appe Aanduwa frauds. At the end she confessed it was she who was a fraudster and agreed to pay Rs 5M penalty to Sinhala Buddhist Appe Aanduwa. Thanks to Buddha, still she was smart enough to confess her stupidity as only a fraud and dodged the prison term.

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