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Comprehensive Government programmes addressing poverty- Secretary to President


World Bank
Country Director
Naoko Ishii
Presidential
Secretary Lalith Weeratunga

POVERTY REDUCTION: The challenges of poverty reduction in Sri Lanka are not unreachable, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga said at a dissemination workshop organised by the World Bank yesterday.

“Government thinking of poverty reduction is in line with the World Bank poverty assessments. Poverty reduction should be on a scientific basis. Government will not focus on poverty elimination but on poverty reduction. The comprehensive programmes that come under Mahinda Chinthanaya are aimed at poverty reduction,” Weeratunga said.

He pointed out that Mahinda Chinthanaya does not concentrate on urbanisation but on modernisation.

“Modernisation will not destroy the sanity of the village. Taking IT to rural areas through Nenasala programmes are very successful. It has made an impact on the village population. In 2000 Budget, the idea of e-villages was proposed. Rs. 100 billion was allocated to develop e-villages while preserving culture and the environment of the village,” he said.

“Gama Neguma is a holistic approach to the rural sector. Improving infrastructure such as supplying electricity, common telecommunication, drinking water and access roads are taking place under this project. Maga Neguma has embarked on using concrete to make the roads sustainable. At least one top school will also be established in each divisional secretariat”, Weeratunga explained.

Weeratunga added that the Jathika Saviya which is in line with Gama Neguma will look at developing 4000 villages whilst improving enterprises to enhance the income of villagers.

“The Government will also coordinate with all the sectors. The Ministers and Secretaries to the Ministries will monitor the projects.

The Monitoring Committee at the Secretariat will monitor the major projects,” he said.

World Bank Country Director Naoko Ishii said poverty reduction has been hampered by slow economic growth outside the Western Province.

“ Sri Lanka needs to integrate the rural economy into the growth path enjoyed by the Western Province.

Poverty reduction has been uneven in Sri Lanka. National poverty rate has been reduced from 26 per cent in 1990-91 to 23 percent in 2002.

While urban poverty halved during this period, rural poverty declined by less that 5 percentage points and poverty in estates increased significantly,” she said. “The extent of poverty reduction in Sri Lanka will critically depend on how lagging regions and groups participate in the growth process.

An important reason for slow growth outside the Western Province is stagnation in agriculture.

Higher poverty is associate with areas characterised by low connectivity to towns and markets, and lack of access to electricity and quality human capital limit the growth of non-farm enterprises,” Senior Economist of the World Bank, Ambar Narayan said.

He added that business networks and better planning of roads are essential for faster poverty reduction.

 

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