Home / FT View/ Data and development

Data and development


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 21 March 2018 08:45


Sri Lanka’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is important, but achieving them within the time period requires that data-centric policymaking becomes the Government standard. As a country that struggles to find adequate resources, it is doubly important that they are used to benefit as many people as possible.

By international standards, social assistance is less generous in Sri Lanka than in many other comparable countries. The World Bank in a 2016 a benchmarking exercise examined the generosity and targeting of social assistance programs across 40 lower middle-income countries found that contribution to the lowest of Sri Lanka’s poor or those who live on about Rs. 120 a day is merely 6.6%, significantly below Pakistan, the Philippines, and even Bolivia.

Not only are Sri Lanka’s social assistance programs small, but the budget devoted to social transfers has also fallen in recent years. Spending on social transfers, with the exception of fertiliser subsidies, has declined in real terms. For example, the fall in the real value of Samurdhi transfers slowed poverty reduction by 9.6% between 2002 and 2012/13. Because of the decline in spending, by 2012/13, six key programs including hand-outs for disabled and elderly combined amounted to only over 3% of total household consumption for the bottom consumption quintile.

For example, Samurdhi has had a minor and decreasing impact on poverty reduction. Samurdhi transfers are too small to make a large impact on poor households’ budgets, as they contributed only 1.7% to household consumption of the poorest 20% of the population in 2012/13, according to the World Bank study. In other words subtracting the Samurdhi benefit from household consumption would increase the national poverty rate by 2.1% points in 2002. But in 2012/13, the comparable figure had declined to merely 0.6% points.

The poverty reduction impacts of other social assistance programs are even smaller. These programs include the school food program, fertiliser subsidies, the Thriposha program, disability and relief, elderly payment, scholarship, health and medical aids, food and other commendation, and disaster relief assistance. Combined, their impact on poverty is almost negligible at 0.5% points.

The report goes onto say among Sri Lanka’s social transfer programs, Samurdhi and the school lunch program are better targeted than fertiliser subsidies. Samurdhi and school lunch programs transfer roughly 55% of benefits go to the bottom 40%. The fertiliser subsidies are the least well targeted transfer, with only 45% of the benefit being devoted to the bottom 40%.

Samurdhi’s targeting performance has slightly worsened in recent years. In 2002, 42% of all transfers reached the bottom quintile and 70% reached the bottom 40%. But by 2012-13, this had fallen to 39% and 65%, respectively. Reforming the social assistance programs, including the Samurdhi, to reduce leakage and improve coverage of the disadvantaged can make it more helpful for the poor. 

Given this data, a massive change has to happen with both the public and the Government. For starters the Government must invest in more studies to gather data and understand dynamics before crafting policies rather than rolling out hand-outs to broker more votes. The public must also understand the difference between quality and quantity, so that their representatives use public revenue to formulate and implement poverty alleviation methods that actually work or it will continue to be precious public money spent inefficiently.


Share This Article


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

Disruptive economy and poverty of knowledge: Sri Lankans have a lot to learn

Monday, 16 July 2018

The poor are usually defined as those who are below a given level of income that would be insufficient to meet their basic needs. In my view, the poor – no matter whether it is an individual, family or a nation – are those who are unable to read


National prosperity through quality and productivity

Monday, 16 July 2018

I was so delighted to get involved with the national convention of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Quality and Productivity (SLAAQP) with the fitting theme, “National Prosperity through World Class Quality and Productivity”.


Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s ‘Davena Vihagun’ (Burning Birds): A realistic and authentic film

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Filmmaker Sanjeewa Pushpakumara is a bright star in the cinematic firmament of Sri Lanka. His second feature film ‘Davena Vihagun’ (Burning Birds) is currently being screened in Sri Lanka. The film completed in 2016 has been shown at several inte


Yameen regime in Maldives turns to Islamic countries for support

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Abdulla Yameen Government in the Maldives is turning to Islamic countries in a bid to resist pressure from the West and India to restore democracy as per their prescription, and to do their bidding in economic, foreign policy and strategic matter


Columnists More