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DateLine Wednesday, 17 October 2007

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Government Gazette

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 projects.

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 strengths.

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 alleviate poverty.

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 the country.

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 Pubuduwa.

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 reads:

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 grand promises.

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 themselves.

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.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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