15 June, 2024


Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Social Security In A Stake

By Prasansa Gunawaradana

Prasansa Gunawaradana

The sudden shift from the COVID – 19 breakdowns to the prevailing economic crisis in Sri Lanka became a big thunder for the entire nation and the community as a whole. Society, which is the key element of a nation is the direct entity that gets positively or negatively affected by any of the disastrous or advantageous influences and outcomes. Concerning the society as a whole, security of the society plays a vital role in the paradigm of National Security. Where the safety and protection of the society are necessary in the development and sustenance of a nation. Where it is clearly defined as a basic human right by the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and the United Nations instruments. However, the controversy is that the right is only enjoyed by a small proportion of the entire humankind.  As the ILO defines, social security is the protection that a society provides to individuals and households to ensure access to health care and to guarantee income security, particularly in “old age, unemployment, sickness, invalidity, work injury, maternity or loss of a breadwinner.” 

All facets of society are significantly impacted by social security. The general concept of social security gives employees’ families access to health care and income protection in the event of short-term unemployment, illness, or maternity leaves as well as lengthier absences owing to incapacity or work-related injuries. It also ensures the financial security of older people during their retirement years. Social security also brings forth programs that assist families in paying for their children’s education benefits. It supports healthy labour relations and a productive workforce for businesses and employers. Additionally, social security can promote social cohesiveness and the overall growth and development of a nation by raising living standards, reducing the human costs of structural and technical change, and laying the groundwork for a more optimistic view of globalization. 

In this context, the current economic crisis has brutally affected the main conditions of sustaining social security, which has directly affected the human rights of the entire Sri Lankan population. As Sri Lanka’s economic situation worsens, life-threatening shortages of medicine and essential supplies have become a big issue as well. Where the last few months have brought shocking challenges to Sri Lanka’s healthcare system and the bare minimum of surviving daily life in whatever the circumstances. Fuel shortages have also made transportation either impossible or immensely expensive, making it sometimes impossible or difficult for individuals to reach healthcare facilities and the necessities of food for 24 hours of survival.  People are finding it harder and harder to meet their basic food demands as a result of inflation-driven price increases and declining household income. Where in certain it was portrayed and much evidence that some days children had no food for consumption, and even the meals provided by the government for some schools were insufficient for total survival.

The standard of living has been significantly reduced as a result of the swift depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee and wages’ inability to keep pace with inflation. Small-enterprise owners’ capacity to conduct business is being hampered by frequent power outages, and several have shut down operations entirely. Supply constraints, rising commodity costs, and shortages of gas and kerosene for cooking are altering people’s consumption habits. The economic crisis goes hand in hand inter-connected with the affected social security concerns. Every aspect of Sri Lanka’s social security has been affected by the current economic crisis. Where not only one particular level of the population is been affected but the entire population has been prone to various effects of the crisis starting with basic human requirements to all secondary requirements as well. Where social security has become a chain of elements that are being subjected to danger and affected by the force of vulnerability. 

The government of Sri Lanka came up with the need to ensure social security not in a stake and is not in danger as we step into the year 2023. This can be analyzed with the short-term and long-term precautions and measures taken by the state in terms of securing social security, which are human rights of the entire community. The measures taken in terms of  importing the needful medications, the imposing of bans on certain secondary goods which aren’t mandatory, working on the effective importing of fuel, the distribution and supply, reducing the power-cut durations and coming up with alternative energy solutions, initiating different school related projects to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, providing government effort on migration of people and in getting down direct remittances, whereas, also salary increments, pension scheme follow-ups and “Samurdhi Sahana” have been worked out by the government with the requirement of security and restabilizing the social security of the country. Which in turn has become a fruitful, gradual and slow-paced process that steps back to stability along with the economic crisis. The point vise reduction of the inflation rate significantly portrays good times ahead specially in terms of human security and social security as a whole. 

Therefore, it is always wise to address the root cause of many, social security concerns, such as the inflation rates, where it could halt the level of effect towards various sub-elements that align with money and consumption. Also, where food, health, transportation, employment and of societal conditions could be levelled up through individual, collective and international assistance as a whole. 

*Prasansa Gunawaradana is research(intern)  at the Institute of National Security Studies, the premier think tank on National Security established under the Ministry of Defence. The opinion expressed is her own and not necessarily reflective of the institute.

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