Sri Lanka has faced a turbulent economic journey in recent years, with 2022 witnessing an unprecedented crisis marked by a staggering 8.7% GDP contraction. The economy slowly but steadily pulled back from the abyss over the course of 2023. These positive developments are a result of the implementation of economic stabilisation measures and groundwork for institutional and regulatory reforms to support future growth. But there are concerns about the impact on the most vulnerable groups. As a country that faces years of weak growth, IPS’ ‘Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2023’ report, explores the complex policy choices Sri Lanka faces as it navigates the path to economic recovery.
Even before the onset of COVID-19, malnutrition stood as a significant driver of multi-dimensional poverty among children in Sri Lanka. Startling data from the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) in 2019 revealed that one in three children aged 0 to 4 who are multidimensionally poor, are either underweight or stunted. The multiple crises that affected Sri Lanka since 2020 have only exacerbated the already precarious nutrition situation in poor households. This blog argues the need for prioritising social policies focused on children to ensure sustained investment in human capital.
With the introduction of Aswesuma as a brand-new initiative targeting the poor and vulnerable, social protection in Sri Lanka has been a much-debated subject lately. Aswesuma primarily intends to overcome some key weaknesses of existing social protection programmes – at least on paper – but several challenges prevail. However, opinions regarding its capabilities to accomplish this remain ambiguous. The public has been protesting the scheme, and opposition party critics have called it an unfair political gimmick. Initially scheduled for disbursement in July 2023, the benefits for July finally commenced disbursement last Monday (28th August) for 800,000 beneficiaries. This blog delves into the key areas that warrant clarification, with the hope that authorities will address these concerns transparently.
Empty supermarket shelves, endless queues to buy essentials and overnight camping around fuel stations are now regular sights in Sri Lanka. As the economy continues to plummet with no viable short-term solutions in sight, levels of frustration among the citizens continue to rise. The country’s worst economic crisis since independence has battered Sri Lankans from all walks of life but the fallouts are impacting the poor with greater intensity. If urgent measures are not taken to support the most vulnerable at this time, more Sri Lankans will slip into poverty thus increasing intergenerational poverty in the long term. This blog identifies some of the most pressing challenges faced by the poor and vulnerable amidst the prevailing crisis and outlines policy options to safeguard their well-being.
The tourism industry’s performance was hampered first by the Easter Sunday bomb explosions in 2019 and then the COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka saw a decline in tourist arrivals from 1,913,702 in 2019 to 194,495 in 2021. It is estimated that revenue declined from USD 3600 million to USD 261 million during 2019-2021, reflecting a staggering 92.75% reduction due to a fall in arrivals. This blog discusses existing disparities in tourism and the possibility of adopting a sustainable, pro-poor tourism strategy to reduce poverty in Sri Lanka.