Sri Lanka launches welfare scheme for poor families

'We are targeting 2 million families to benefit from the programme'

SRI LANKA-POLITICS-UNREST-ECONOMY The redeemer: Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking to journalists after taking charge as president | AFP

Sri Lanka on Monday rolled out a welfare scheme funded by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to provide direct financial relief to low-income families, the first such programme after the country plunged into an unprecedented economic crisis last year.

  The Aswasuma scheme, which replaces the Samurdhi benefits programme, however, has faced opposition from lawmakers.

"We are targeting 2 million families to benefit from the programme. While 1.5 million families have been identified with another 1 million appeals and 120,000 disputed cases. A total of 800,000 people would receive their benefits today," state finance minister Shehan Semasinghe said.

Under four categories, the poor will receive monthly cash benefits ranging from 2,500 to 15,000 rupees for three years from July this year.

The opponents of the scheme say it is a flawed programme as it only recognises the most vulnerable for benefits and a large number of former Samurdhi beneficiaries have been left out.

The dispute forced the resignation last month of the chair of the Welfare Benefits Board.

Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves. The economic crisis sparked widespread protests which led to the ouster of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. 

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines