4.9M Families Received ‘Pandemic’ Handouts – WB

By Paneetha Ameresekere | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 26 2021
News 4.9M Families Received ‘Pandemic’ Handouts – WB

By Paneetha Ameresekere 

COVID-19 mitigation measures in the form of cash and food assistance at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 likely helped absorb the pandemic-induced labour market shock which led to ‘mass’ layoffs and pay cuts, thereby softening the impact on poverty, the World Bank (WB) in a report titled ‘Background Report to Sri Lanka Poverty Assessment’ dated 1 October 2021 said. 

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the poor and vulnerable, the Government implemented several welfare measures by scaling up existing schemes, it said. Consequently, more than 4.9 million families are reported to have received a payment of Rs 10,000, administered through the Department of Samurdhi Development during the first lockdown period, the WB said. This is in addition to the individual allowances for elderly or disabled individuals or chronic kidney disease patients, it said. 

In related developments, around 1.4 million families received relief payments of (or equivalent to) Rs 5,000 during the second COVID-19 wave in October 2020. It is estimated that under the WB’s‘US$3.20 poverty rate of per person per diem’ calculation, Sri Lanka’s poverty fell further as a result, by another two percentage points due to these handouts, the WB said. 

However, overall, the WB estimates that led by the COVID19 pandemic, over 500,000 were driven to poverty last year (2020), resulting in 11.7 per cent of the populace being driven to poverty, from 9.2 per cent in 2019, it added. “Though the pandemic related welfare programmes were very costly and had wide coverage, mitigation was likely less effective than it could have been due to weak targeting,” the WB further said.

By Paneetha Ameresekere | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 26 2021

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