World Bank increases social development package
The World Bank was giving a US dollar 900 million package for social
development for a four year period and was considering an increase by
another US dollars 60 million especially in view of the humanitarian
problem in the North and the welfare services needed by the
government,World Bank Country Director Naoko Ishii said at a panel
discussion held in Colombo on Wednesday.
The World Bank human development division South Asia was looking at
how Sri Lanka a middle income country that had so far achieved social
development standards with more success than other countries in the
region, could handle the issues consequent to world economic downturn,
Michal Rutkowski visiting World Bank Director for human development in
South Asia said.
He said though Sri Lanka was a middle income earning country it could
face the effects of the downturn in terms of foreign remittances or
lower foreign employment opportunity as well as other economic factors
while it was also necessary to look at the aging population that was on
the increase due to high life expectancy rate in the country.
In the social security and pension strategies new concepts would have
to be looked at especially since a large percentage of people would have
to be supported by a smaller percentage of the population.
Rutkowski said perhaps considering increase of the age of retirement
may be one strategy and also other strategies like private sector-public
sector partnership in pension schemes but it was a matter that the
Government and the private sector had to discuss.
The main strategy of any pension scheme would be that it should be
transparent and the beneficiaries should know beforehand what the
benefits they would gain from a pension scheme.
According to studies the percentage of people living under the
poverty line in Sri Lanka was around 15 percent but the Samurdhi poverty
alleviation scheme was doling out benefits to 38 percent of the
There were reports that some of those who received Samurdhi benefits
were not living in poverty and such persons should be taken out of the
scheme. However when the effects of the world economic downturn begin to
be felt it would become necessary to increase the quantum of benefit in
cash and kind to the beneficiary families as the present quantum would
not be sufficient, Rurkowski noted.
In the area of higher education, the World Bank was discussing with
the Government the public and private sector participation in university
education as the private sector could contribute to this sector for the
greater benefit of the population. WB also was aiding the Higher
Education Ministry to upgrade university education.
In his country Poland before 1989 there were objections to private
sector participation in higher education but now it was mainly
private-public sector participation going successfully, Rutkowski said.
Answering a question Economist Harsha Athurupana said the graduates
of Sri Lankan universities did not have ICT and English Language skills
and therefore were not employable.
But the World Bank will present its report on higher education to the
Government in June where the WB recommendations would be made.
ICT was a necessity in this century and even children should be given