Sri Lanka's road map for poverty eradication
While we mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
today, it is worthwhile dwelling on the measures taken to address the
question of poverty in Sri Lanka and the means adopted to extricate the
poor from the poverty trap.
Programmes focused on the eradication of poverty have been in the
agenda of all the successive Governments since independence. But they
have not been able to bring about a substantial reduction in poverty
among the poor.
In order to provide a lasting solution to the problem of poverty, the
People's Alliance Government that came to power in 1994, made a
concerted effort in this regard by introducing the Samurdhi Movement and
establishing a separate Ministry called Samurdhi.
In addition, Sri Lanka Samurdhi Authority (SLSA) was established in
1996 as the key State mechanism to implement the poverty alleviation
programmes under the Samurdhi Movement.
Sri Lanka Samurdhi Authority (SLSA) Director General Ravindra
Hewavitharana in an interview with the Daily News said: "The
implementation of the Samurdhi programme has made a direct impact in the
reduction of poverty in the country.
At the inception of the Samurdhi Movement, the percentage below the
poverty line was 28.8 per cent. This has been reduced to 22.7 per cent
in 2002. The poverty gap too has dropped to less than 5.1 per cent in
2002 from 6.6 percent in 1995."
"This clearly indicates, the number of Samurdhi beneficiary families
had slightly decreased as they have been able to stand on their feet due
to assistance provided to them under the Samurdhi Movement. In a world
where poverty is on the rise, in Sri Lanka we have noticed the beginning
of a downward trend which is quite encouraging and satisfying."
According to Hewavitharana, the Samurdhi Movement has played a
leading role to alleviate poverty and uplift the socio-economic
conditions of a large number of country's deserving poor. Through 1,038
Samurdhi Banks, the Samurdhi Movement has formed an effective network to
cater to the needs of the poor.
Since the establishment of Samurdhi Banks, 3.2 million loan units
have been released to Samurdhi beneficiaries to overcome their
socio-economic hardships and commence various income generation
This has contributed to a very great extent in reducing the rate of
poverty. No Government in the world has established this kind of key
network to deal with poverty covering the entire country.
Therefore, the network created by the Samurdhi Movement to alleviate
poverty is a novelty, he said. Today the Samurdhi programme has turned
into a movement which unites the poor who have been living divided and
in disunity, by organising them as a single entity determined to develop
their own capabilities while exploring their hidden and dormant
At present 52,000 village level societies have been formed by the
Samurdhi beneficiaries which come under the purview of 1,038 Samurdhi
Bank societies. The Samurdhi programme has achieved steady progress
during the past 12 years. Nearly 1.9 million low income families are
being given the Samurdhi subsidy.
Through various income generation programmes introduced and credit
facilities granted by Samurdhi Banks, the Samurdhi Movement has provided
a helping hand to Samurdhi beneficiaries towards their attempts made to
The Samurdhi programme has guided the poor to stand on their own feet
by creating close coordination among them. Within a short period, the
Samurdhi programme has graduated to a movement that won the hearts of
the poor throughout the country, he said.
Nearly 2.5 million people have already obtained membership of
Samurdhi Banks. In addition Samurdhi Banks have accumulated Rs. 20
billion in savings.
Compared to other banks, Samurdhi banks are the only banking network
in the country which provides loans to the poor based purely on mutual
trust for their economic empowerment. Due to their poverty, these poor
segments have never been given a loan by any bank.
Therefore, provision of loans to poor to uplift economy based on
their mutual trust is a great success achieved by the Samurdhi Banks.
Under the Samurdhi programme, a large number of rural youth have been
provided employment in 1,038 Samurdhi Bank Societies set up throughout
At present 24,000 Samurdhi Development Officers and 2,200 Samurdhi
Managers attached to these Samurdhi Banks work with the sole intention
of guiding the poor to get out of their poverty trap. In this situation,
Samurdhi has made a direct impact to minimise unemployment particularly
among rural youth.
According to Hewavitharana, poverty alleviation should essentially be
a movement in which the people's potential should be developed and
channelled into the mainstream of the development process.
Three major development approaches namely welfare, rural development
and social mobilisation were the basis on which the Samurdhi programme
was launched as a key mechanism to alleviate poverty.
Meanwhile, providing integral support to Mahinda Chintana, Jana
Pubuduwa and Gam Pubuduwa projects have been launched by the SLSA. Under
the Jana Pubuduwa project, Samurdhi Banks provide credit facilities to
Samurdhi beneficiaries to commence various income generating projects.
Gam Pubuduwa has targeted the development of the infrastructure
facilities of identified villages throughout the country. Just last
year, 110,000 infrastructure projects have been completed under Gam
Meanwhile, the Samurdhi Movement has taken immediate measures to
provide a lasting solution to the problem of shelter of the low income
families who are without any form of shelter at present.
The SLSA has implemented a special housing project named Diriya
Piyasa to overcome the shelter problem of these poor families.
Under this housing project 10,000 houses have been constructed during
the year 2005 and 2006 for 10,000 Samurdhi beneficiary families selected
at Divisional Secretariat level.
Let us stand up to end the scourge of poverty
The proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day has
fallen, but progress has been uneven. Some regions are not on track to
meet Millennium Development Goals, says Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General
of the United Nations in his message on the International Day for the
Eradication of Poverty which falls on October 17. His full message
At the dawn of the Millennium, world leaders made bold pledges to the
world's poor. They pledged a world where all children complete their
elementary education; a world where people have access to safe drinking
water, and families are protected from deadly diseases like malaria; a
world where nations work together to cut greenhouse gas emissions that
contribute to global warming.
Above all, our leaders promised a world where people are no longer
condemned to a life of extreme and egregious poverty.
This year, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty falls
just after the midpoint in the race to reach those commitments - the
Millennium Development Goals - by the target date of 2015. The Day
provides an important opportunity to take stock of our progress, and to
re-energise our efforts.
Our global scorecard is mixed. The proportion of people living on
less than a dollar a day has fallen, and we remain on track to meet the
MDG target of halving extreme poverty.
But progress has been uneven, and some regions - particularly
sub-Saharan Africa- are not on track to redeem even a single one of our
Today, the world must refocus its attention, and its resources, on
the place and people that are being left behind. As we do, we must bear
in mind that none are more committed to ending poverty than the poor
Often, all they lack is the guidance, the tools, and the
opportunities to win this fight. Our task is to address these failings.
As suggested by the theme for this year's observance, we have to view
people living in poverty as agents of change. This requires us to
encourage national ownership of development strategies.
It requires citizens to actively participate in policy-making, and
Governments to become more accountable to their citizens in their
efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals.
Above all, it requires a true partnership for development - one in
which rich countries do their part in delivering resources and
productive employment opportunities through market access, so as to
enable the poor to take control of their lives.
Today, we join hands with the poor in a collective effort - one which
brings in civil society, the private sector, and individuals around the
world. Tens of millions of people are making their voices heard by
standing up against poverty - at sports and cultural events, in
universities and schools. They are sending messages or signing petitions
that call on their leaders to keep their promises.
They are calling for the actions of citizens to be matched by the
actions of Governments, in developing and developed countries alike, in
support of the Millennium Development Goals.
On this 20th International Day for the Eradication of Poverty; let us
all stand up. Let us demonstrate the political will required to end the
scourge of poverty once and for all.