Top priority for poverty alleviation - Prime Minister
COLOMBO: Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake yesterday stressed
that the Government has realised the importance of addressing the major
problem of poverty and to meet the basic requirements of the poor by
mobilising them to be active partners in the country's economic growth.
The Prime Minister made these observations at the inaugural ceremony
of the First Meeting of SAARC Ministers on Poverty Alleviation at Hotel
Taj Samudra yesterday. The meeting will focus on important developments
in the area of poverty alleviation and also consideration of the report
of the First Meeting of SAARC Secretaries on Poverty Alleviation held in
Colombo on August 6 and 7.
"Addressing poverty is a major challenge that all SAARC countries are
facing today. The political will and desire is to address this problem
on a priority basis. The future development of our countries will depend
on how we tackle this major problem," he told the delegates.
Under the Mahinda Chintana initiative, it has been proposed to
channel more resources to needy people and areas. The Government has
already commenced upgrading rural infrastructure facilities and
strengthening village community organisations, he said.
The Prime Minister said general indicators have shown that Sri Lanka
recorded considerable progress, in terms of quality of life index.
But special attention has to be focused on a number of areas.
Malnutrition is still a major problem. The income distribution shows
that poor do not get an adequate share of the national resources, he
Addiction to drugs, alcohol and other substances has become a common
phenomenon for all South Asian countries. This has directly affected to
further worsening of the poverty level in low income families. Future
poverty alleviation programmes need to be addressed taking these issues
into consideration well to reduce poverty in SAARC countries, he said.
The Premier said the 12th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in January 2004
declared poverty alleviation as the overreaching goal of all SAARC
activities. The SAARC survey report for 2005 focuses on current issues
of poverty reduction and productive employment generation.
Samurdhi and Poverty Alleviation Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi in
her welcome address, said under the Mahinda Chintana Goals (MCGs), a
Medium Term Expenditure Framework will be developed to ensure the
benefits of the high income growth spread across the regions and among
low income groups.
The Minister said reforms are needed for the Samurdhi programme, the
largest poverty reduction intervention operating in Sri Lanka covering
nearly two million low income families. Samurdhi savings and credit
programmes have targeted to assist poor to get rid of poverty and
improve their income generating activities by offering them investment
credit at low interest. The Samurdhi programme has also provided
assistance to mobilise community support and complete their
infrastructure facilities to overcome the infrastructure needs of the
poor, she said.
The Gemidiriya Community Development and Livelihood Improvement
Project is producing results effectively contributing towards the
Government's strategy for poverty reduction integrating the experience
of several countries of the South Asian Region, the Minister said.