Sri Lanka must address social protection issues - Senior Minister
Adequate revisions and amendments need to be enforced to the existing
National Social Protection Policy to avoid any future crisis as Sri
Lanka's population is aging rapidly, said Senior Human Resources
Minister D E W Gunasekera.
Senior Minister Gunasekera was speaking as the chief guest at a
workshop entitled, Promoting Productive Social Protection and Labour
Systems in Sri Lanka for Inclusive Growth: Developing an Integrated
Social Protection and Labour Strategy, organised jointly by the
Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), Finance and Planning
Ministry National Planning Department and the World Bank.
He said, those well-established schemes for old age pensions are
today barely adequate for the purchase of basic needs. Moreover, the
lump sum payments at retirement are inadequate to generate a flow of
adequate income after retirement.
"Sixty two percent of the employed are in the informal sector and
this is a significant sector of our economy not covered by any social
security schemes - occupational, safety, health or work related measures
of social protection," he said.
The senior minister said changes to the Social Protection Policy
needs to reflect the demographic shift that the country is undergoing to
prepare for the rising numbers of retirement age people.
The workshop which commenced on June 25 laid the platform through
which a policy and implementation dialogue could be started with
relevant stakeholders and concerned parties on the subject of social
protectionism in Sri Lanka.
A noteworthy attendee at the event was Chilean Vice-Minister for
Social Security Augusto Iglesias Palau and Chilean ambassador-designate
to Sri Lanka Christian Barros, who shared the Chilean experience with
other participants at the workshop.
IPS Executive Director Dr. Saman Kelegama said in his welcome address
that Sri Lanka has shown a marked improvement in Income Poverty, as
illustrated in the latest Households Income and Expenditure Survey
(HIES) 2009/2010. The HIES highlights that Income Poverty has dropped to
8.9% from 15.2% in 2006/7, which suggests that the number of overall
people living in poverty has fallen significantly.
Dr. Kelegama said much more remains to be done to address the
inequalities that persist between regions and the urban, rural and
estate sectors. He added that changes need to be implemented to promote
inclusive growth. World Bank Country Director in Sri Lanka Diarietou
Gaye said the World Bank stands poised to help the country address any
shortcomings in the current Social Protection Policy, if the need
Giving a comprehensive context to the call for amendments to the
Social Protection Policy was National Planning Department Director
General Dr. B.M.S. Batagoda who said the government spends over Rs 200
billion annually for social protectionist activities such as, Samurdhi
benefits and utilities concessions. This amounts to 20% of revenue.
He said in addition, the government spends a similar amount on the
provision of free healthcare and education across the island. Dr.
Batagoda said despite this colossal amount being spent, the results are
often paltry in comparison. Using the National Education System as an
example, he said the government funds 10,000 schools around the country.
"As a middle income country, Sri Lanka needs to re-prioritize and
design targeted methods that provide tangible results through a Social
Protection Strategy which would promote growth and development," he