poverty in Sri Lanka
Poverty in Sri Lanka has seen a decline from 22.7 percent in 2002 to 6.1 percent in 2012-13. However, the Northern and Eastern provinces of the country have not yet experienced much change. The places most affected by poverty are Mullaitivu at 28.8 percent, Mannar at 20.1 percent and Batticaloa district at 19.4 percent.

The Role of Millennium Challenge Corporation

Like in many developing countries, poverty in Sri Lanka has been declining, but the pace of decline has been very slow and irregular. One of the primary ways in which the government tries to reduce poverty is by focusing on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improving job opportunities for people.

Today, many world organizations assist developing countries in realizing their goals. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is one such organization working towards alleviating global poverty. The group is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency which grants financial assistance to developing countries in order to help uplift them.

Process of Selection

The process of selecting the country eligible for a compact, large-scale five-year plan is done based on a 20 point criteria laid down by the organization. Only countries that practice good governance, work towards the welfare of the citizens and fulfill at least a minimum number of those set criteria are eligible to receive grants. MCC assists such countries in the development of various sectors like transportation, education, housing and so on.

The focus of MCC is to enable developing countries to achieve the SDGs and thereby reduce poverty. The organization started operating in 2004 and has so far signed compacts with 29 countries around the world.

MCC’s Role in Alleviating Poverty in Sri Lanka

In December 2016, the organization selected Sri Lanka to receive foreign aid after noting that the country passed 13 out of the 20 indicators on MCC’s policy scorecard. In June 2018, MCC advanced its partnership with Sri Lanka confirming its unswerving support in helping the country prosper and flourish. Caroline Nguyen, the Managing Director of MCC for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America visited the country from June 11th to 13th to finalize the proposed MCC compact which aims to reduce poverty in Sri Lanka.

MCC’s focus is on investing in land and transport projects of the government of Sri Lanka. The proposed compact aims to systematize the interregional movement of goods and people, regulate traffic congestions and help develop a more organized land administration.

MD Nguyen signed an agreement with the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Robert Hilton, at the Ministry of Finance granting $2.6 million as financial aid for the same. This is in addition to the $7.4 million which was granted in July last year. Nguyen told The Sunday Leader “We are pleased to partner with Sri Lanka on a program that will reduce poverty through economic growth and improve lives in the country.”

Future Direction

Robert Hilton, the Deputy Chief of Mission, told the Asian Tribune, “the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact is an important part of the U.S. government’s commitment to work as partners with the people of Sri Lanka to support sustainable development throughout the country.”

The finalized MCC compact will be presented to the MCC’s Board of Directors for approval by late 2018. The organization assures it will fund the compact entirely through grants (which do not need to be repaid) rather than loans — a sustainable start to a bright future.

– Shruthi Nair
Photo: Flickr

U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri LankaThe small South Asian country of Sri Lanka has been supported by the United States since the 1950s through U.S.-led programs that have invested in the island nation. Programs over the years have focused on a variety of causes, including health, education, business development, trade and good governance, just to name a few.

Since the tsunami of 2004, more assistance has come to this country of 21 million residents to help it continue to grow its economy as the U.S. pursues its goal of widening and accelerating economic growth as well as reconciling the ethnic and religious tensions within Sri Lanka.

However, the foreign aid cut proposed by President Trump will directly affect the amount of aid the U.S. can donate to this country, which is still trying to recover from a series of natural disasters and civil conflicts. In light of these recent developments, it is important to examine how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka.

The Realities of Foreign Aid

Trump’s proposal intends to cut foreign aid by an estimated 28 percent from last year, a significant amount that can no longer be used to continue to aid the world’s poor. A common assumption is that the U.S. spends a large portion of its federal budget on foreign aid, but this is a misconception.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, on average, Americans believe that roughly a quarter of the U.S. federal budget is spent on foreign aid, when, in reality, the U.S. government has only allocated roughly 1 percent of its annual budget to be spent on foreign aid.

In the case of a nation like Sri Lanka, foreign aid from the U.S. has not only helped citizens rebuild their lives after natural disasters and civil conflicts, but in turn, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka by receiving returns on its business relations with the country, due to the support the U.S. has given the Sri Lankan economy.

Bilateral Business Relations

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka through its continued participation in bilateral trade with the country, by exporting products such as industrial machinery, medical instruments, aircraft parts, lentils, paper, food, garment fabrics and pharmaceuticals.

This bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Sri Lanka has helped the U.S. economy over the years. In 2017 alone, the U.S. sent $335.7 million in exports to the nation, while imports from Sri Lanka totaled $2.86 billion.

Sri Lanka currently desires to uplift its citizens out of poverty and develop the nation into an upper middle-income economy. The nation’s gross domestic product was an estimated $81.3 billion in 2016, and is expected to increase by 7 percent by the year 2020.

Growth Opportunities in Sri Lanka

Unlike many of its Asian counterparts, Sri Lanka is looking to arrange more foreign investment deals, which is an arena the U.S. can take advantage of with investments. U.S. investment in Sri Lanka will generate more annual revenue for both countries, especially in tourism, a thriving industry that serves as an example of how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka.

This potential revenue will help strengthen the U.S. economy while helping to provide local jobs for Sri Lankan citizens. Sri Lanka also has other advantageous policies to offer the U.S., such as a relatively open financial system, a moderately stable monetary policy, improved infrastructure and world-class local companies.

If the U.S. continues to aid the citizens of Sri Lanka in resolving the country’s economic challenges, it will also find itself generating more revenue for its own economy, Time will tell what effects the current circumstances will have on both nations.

– Lois Charm

Photo: Flickr

Female Political Representation in Sri Lanka Increases After Local ElectionsThe February 10 local government elections in Sri Lanka has led to more women holding elected positions than ever before. Prior to the elections, female political representation in Sri Lanka was almost nonexistent; only two percent of local government officials were women. The change in representation can be accredited to the passage of an amendment requiring that 25 percent of political candidates in Sri Lanka be women.

This amendment was passed in 2016, but the February 10 local elections were the first to occur under the new mandate. The recent elections saw 17,000 female candidates run for office. In total, more than 56,000 candidates ran for about 8,000 positions. Only 82 women were elected to local office in the 2011 local elections. After the February 10 election, more than 2,000 women will act as representatives in local government.

Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, has elected Rosy Senanayake as the city’s first female mayor. Mayor Senanayake, a representative from the United National Party, is a prominent activist for women’s and children’s rights. She currently serves as the spokesperson for the prime minister’s office.

The newly-elected female representatives are redefining political norms within their parties. In the past, female candidates have been assigned to outlying districts or entirely prevented from running by powerful men in their parties. The 25 percent candidate quota forced parties to adopt more inclusive policies. Unfortunately, some religious and political heads still urged community members to vote against female candidates.

Increased female political representation in Sri Lanka has the potential to bring new issues to the forefront of government agendas. Many female candidates, backed by women’s organizations, campaigned on promises to end corruption and promote women’s rights. Women’s activist groups like the Eastern United Women Organization (EUWO) have fought for protections for vulnerable groups like women, children and war-affected citizens. These activist groups were natural allies to aspiring female politicians.

EUWO supported the campaigns of 27 women. According to R.G. Podimenike, convener for EUWO, candidates were trained to “eliminate gender-based violence, enhance democratic governance, access government services and promote ethnic reconciliation among multi-ethnic groups who faced three decades of war.”

Long-term effects of the electoral amendment remain to be seen. Ambika Satkunanathan, the commissioner at Sri Lanka’s independent human rights commission, emphasizes that simply increasing female political representation in Sri Lanka will not automatically change the country’s culture.

“The structures will remain, the culture will remain within the local council, within local municipalities and political parties,” says Satkunanathan. “So how are they going to challenge that? We may have elected women, yes that is great. But if they toe the party line, if they are controlled, what is the point?”

With continued efforts from organizations like EUWO, more and more people will move toward the acceptance of gender equality and female political representation in Sri Lanka will only continue to improve.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Sri LankaSri Lanka and its citizens can benefit greatly from credit access. As an island country in South Asia of many languages and ethnicities, it has, of course, been a product of dispute for many years. A democratic republic, political unrest and ethnic divide have been a main source of disarray as noted by its thirty-year civil war which ended in 2009. But besides political issues, Sri Lanka is an economically stable country in South Asia, with a high Human Development Index rating and a per capita income that ranks highest among South Asian countries. Its main economic sectors are tourism, textiles, rice products, and tea, of which it is the second-largest exporter in the world. Similar to most countries, however, while there is certainly stability, Sri Lanka does have its issues.

Sri Lanka still has a large number of citizens who live in poverty. While only 1.8 percent of Sri Lankans live in abject poverty, nearly 45 percent live on $5 or less a day. It is difficult to maintain a stable income, especially in rural areas. It is even more difficult to achieve personal growth when income covers expenses and there is little left over.

Credit Access in Sri Lanka

That’s why credit access in Sri Lanka, especially in rural communities, is an important stage in its continued development. In a report from 2005, the World Bank Group discusses the best methods of increased access for the rural poor. For example, enhanced remittances and payment services, and long-term saving instruments are highly useful for the poor and can be implemented in small and rural enterprises.



Remittances, particularly, have grown rapidly in Sri Lanka. As the report states, Sri Lanka should move from an informal, unsafe network to a formal financial institution with better services, such as savings and insurance. This improvement in credit access in Sri Lanka will allow citizens to manage their financials with lower risks.


Loan Access

A 2011 assessment by the World Bank concluded that only 35 of Sri Lankan small firms can access a loan or a line of credit. Then, in 2013, Sri Lanka’s Credit Information Bureau (CRIB) and the World Bank agreed to boost credit access by making it easier to use movable assets as collateral. The World Bank will help CRIB to develop a legal framework that allows small businesses to mortgage inventory and equipment to bypass the traditional loan agreements.


Loans to Boost Credit Access

And in 2016, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and LOMC (the nation’s leading microfinance institution) inked a $25 million loan agreement to boost credit access in Sri Lanka, specifically for small businesses and individuals. Under the agreement, LOMC will use the loan as funds for lending to micro-businesses and will improve financial products and outreach to remote farmers. LOMC hopes to improve access to banking, as 70 percent of citizens do not have any access, and, because the deal lasts five years, have the sources for long-term loans.

Sri Lanka continues to grow, and with these credit-based programs and findings, it will do so in a stable and financially viable direction. Hopefully, within the next decade, a majority of the population will have access to banking, and credit will allow for the rural poor to lead more economically independent lives.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in Sri LankaSri Lanka is an island country in South Asia and home to many languages and ethnicities. This has, of course, been a cause of disputes for many years. A democratic republic, political unrest and ethnic divides have been a main source of disarray, as noted by its 30-year civil war which ended in 2009.

But other than political issues, Sri Lanka is an economically stable country, with a high Human Development Index rating and a per capita income that ranks the highest among South Asian countries. Its main sectors are tourism, textiles, rice products and tea, of which it is the second-largest exporter in the world.

With such importance placed on agriculture as a sector, sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka is a necessity. However, historically, even with arable and fertile land, Sri Lanka did not implement sustainable practices in agriculture.

In 1998, the Sri Lanka Farmer Forum reported that current research was creating an ecosystem that focused on high input crops and reduced crop independence. Similarly, farmers used harmful toxins and pesticides that increased output but did not sustain output and they used fossil fuels in agricultural production. To increase sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka, the nation needs to retrain farmers on the management of lands without toxins and heavy energy and rebuild soil fertility so natural productivity can return.

For example, a team of researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada has plans to use existing technological infrastructure to engage Sri Lankan farmers in methods that will improve their farming and quality of life. Sri Lankan farmers often do not have access to the internet, which makes it difficult for them to learn how to change their existing farming practices.

The connectivity of cell phones and computers could make it an easier task to implement sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka and create nationwide change. This approach will allow farmers to create social networks and manage knowledge together.

Another project that hopes to create sustainable agriculture and nurture knowledge is the Sustainable Agriculture Water Management Project. Launched in 2005, it used 10,000 solar-powered drip irrigation units to bring water to farmers in dry areas of Sri Lanka. It reduced water use by 50 percent, increased yields two to threefold and decreased labor costs. In addition, these units cultivated a culture of sustainable growth without fossil fuels.

As a massive agricultural exporter, Sri Lanka needs to focus its resources on sustainable practices that do not dry out fertile soil and debilitate its economy. However, with the projects mentioned above and the innovation of its farmers, Sri Lankans can share knowledge and resources to create a sustainable nation in which its farmers can live stable lives.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to sri lanka
Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean, has a population of approximately 22 million. The Sri Lankan government and a militant group had severe tension throughout the 1980s, and these tensions escalated substantially in 2006.

However, the government ultimately gained their control back and following the years of conflict, the government put into place various economic development programs primarily funded by the government of China.

Aside from economic restructuring, the government also resettled 95 percent of civilians that were displaced during the decades of conflict. Through the government’s efforts coupled with humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, millions of people have seen improvements in living conditions, access to education and healthcare and overall disaster preparedness. Here are three successes of humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka.

PINA Organisation

PINA Organisation has provided humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka since 2008. While the organization has several ongoing projects, one of its main objectives is addressing chronic kidney disease (also known as CKD); many Sri Lankans experience high rates of health complications and death as a result of CKD.

The northern and eastern parts of the country are the most affected by the disease — poverty and lack of access to clean water is extremely prevalent throughout the region. With only 35 percent of the entire population having access to clean water, the remainder of the population resorts to using unfiltered ground water.

The use of unfiltered water has been found to be one of the main causes of CKD. The PINA Organisation has partnered with the Sri Lankan Navy and has successfully completed two water filter systems in different regions of the country. Through reverse osmosis, these water systems filter 10,000 liters per day and provide individuals with access to a clean water source.

The organization is responsible for funding the construction of these systems, while the Sri Lankan Navy is responsible for the construction. In 2018, the organization plans to construct another water filtration system in hopes of further preventing CKD by providing Sri Lankans a filtered water source.

World Vision

World Vision has one goal: to sustain the well-being of vulnerable children. Through four key sectors, World Vision is able to meet the needs of children through education, economic development, health and nutrition, and water and sanitation. In 2016, World Vision served over 10,000 children through education. It provided literacy improvements throughout schools around the country, trained over 250 classroom facilitators and provided additional support to nearly 100 children with disabilities.

World Vision also provided proper healthcare and nutrition to over 120,000 children by implementing nutrition programs in schools and prevention programs for disease. The organization also provided access to clean drinking water to upwards 7,000 children, 3,600 households and 35 schools and preschools. Through humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, World Vision has been able to improve the livelihood of thousands of children throughout the country. 

The United States

Many humanitarian organizations have provided support; however, the United States has also provided substantial humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka. USAID seeks to improve economic growth and financial stability across the country.

Over the past several years, more than 10,000 employment opportunities have been created, with $14 million leveraged in private sector funds. Through this effort, entrepreneurship can be fostered, and public procurement processes can be strengthened.

The United States also has a concern for vulnerable populations such as war widows, female-headed households, disabled individuals, and resettling families in Sri Lanka. They have provided job skills to more than 50,000 Sri Lankans, in hopes of giving individuals the necessary skills to thrive.

Through the humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka provided by these organizations and the United States, many individuals’ livelihoods has significantly improved. Further assistance is needed to fund projects such as the water filtration system project with PIMA Organisation as well as additional resources to meet the needs of more Sri Lankans that are living in poverty.

– Sarah Jane Fraser

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in Sri LankaBetween the years of 1983 and 2009, a massive civil war raged on in Sri Lanka. The war caused many issues for the small island nation, but it dealt major blows to its infrastructure, particularly in the northern part of the country. Infrastructure in Sri Lanka is still in need of many improvements, but the government has taken some steps towards improving it.

Sri Lanka has the highest road density of all South Asian countries and in 2004 it reached out to the World Bank for aiding its road sector. With funding from the World Bank, among other organizations, the country was able to carry through the Road Sector Assistance Project (RSAP) and reconstruct its rural and national roads. A main objective of the project was to create an efficient national road system and therefore lower transportation costs for its population.

Another positive step for Sri Lanka was the creation of the Road Maintenance Trust Fund, which efficiently allocated resources for road maintenance in a way that was transparent to the public. The trust fund also created a sense of social responsibility for contractors, as it made them obligated to repair and renovate roads and public buildings like schools and health clinics.

In 2005, Sri Lanka requested aid from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in order to improve services such as water supply, drainage and solid waste management. The ADB evaluated the use of these funds and determined that Sri Lanka was successful in improving living conditions and reducing poverty through the updating of infrastructure services.

Additionally, the Asian Development Bank funded the National Highways Sector Project in Sri Lanka since 2016. This project focused on upgrading about 223 kilometers of major highways in the country and also implemented a more efficient maintenance system. These improvements to the road system in Sri Lanka has made transportation much easier for many farmers and merchants who would previously travel long days to sell their products.

These steps show Sri Lanka moving in the right direction in terms of infrastructure. In the future, the main issues the country may face are related to lack of funding for infrastructure. In order to maintain this growth, the government should prioritize internal development and continue to partner with organizations like the ADB and the World Bank.

With the improvements to infrastructure in Sri Lanka, there have also been improvements to other areas of development throughout the country, such as poverty levels and access to medical care. If Sri Lanka can continue this trend, it will be doing a service to its residents, its economy, and its overall development.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in Sri LankaOn November 2, the World Economic Forum released the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The report did not reflect well on the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

The Global Gender Gap Report grades 144 countries on their progress toward attaining gender equality in four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Sri Lanka has been declining from its position in the top 20 since 2010. The country slipped from closing 74.6 percent of the gender gap in 2010 to 66.9 percent this year.

The country’s gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity increased because it failed to improve conditions of wage inequality for similar work. Additionally, Sri Lanka now ranks 86th among 144 countries in the gender gap in Educational Attainment.

In Political Empowerment, Sri Lanka ranked 65th. The country compensated for low scores on the Women in Parliament and Women in Ministerial Positions indicators with high marks on the Years with a Female Head of State indicator. Sri Lanka has had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years.

Despite these discouraging statistics, efforts to advance the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka persist. Aitken Spence PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., MAS Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Pvt.) Ltd. have signed on as partners of Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Developed through a partnership between U.N. Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the two organizations designed the principles to help companies review existing policies and practices and establish new strategies to promote women’s empowerment.

The principles include:

  • Establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treating all women and men equitably at work by respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination
  • Securing the health, safety and well-being of all female and male workers
  • Promoting education, training and professional development for women
  • Implementing enterprise development and employing supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Nurturing equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Participating companies must measure and publicly report their progress toward achieving gender parity.

In addition to economic measures, non-government organizations are implementing social programs to enhance women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka. Emerge Centre for Reintegration is the newest program sponsored by the Emerge Lanka Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse aged 10-18. For 12 years, the foundation has helped countless exploited young women by providing training in life, financial and professional skills. Now, through the Centre for Reintegration, it offers assistance to young women who are over 18 as they face the challenging transition stage from living in shelters to thriving on their own.

Enabling women to participate fully in communities builds stronger economies, helps attain internationally agreed-upon objectives for development and sustainability and improves the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The work being done in Sri Lanka can help counter its decreasing rankings and ensure empowerment for all women.

– Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

Sri Lanka Poverty RateSri Lanka, often called the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is a beautiful island with incredible and diverse landscapes. It is a major exporter of tea and women’s clothing. Despite being located near some of the most poverty-stricken nations in the world, the poverty rate in Sri Lanka has been steadily decreasing, even through a twenty-six-year civil war that ended in 2009.

The national poverty headcount ratio decreased 15.9 percent between 2002 and 2012, even with more than double the population the small island nation had had in 1960. According to the Asian Development Bank, 6.7 percent of Sri Lankans live below the poverty line in 2017, which is around the same level it was in 2012.

Increased economic growth and foreign investment have led to higher wages, better living conditions and widespread urbanization. Sri Lanka’s GDP has been increasing since 1963 and is predicted to grow another five percent in 2018. However, this growth has not allowed all regions to prosper. Some parts of Sri Lanka, such as Jaffna and Galle, have very high poverty rates because of the civil war and natural disasters, respectively.

A massive tsunami, which struck Sri Lanka’s south western coast in 2004–primarily in the area of Galle–left thousands homeless and injured. It also severely depleted the coastal water supply by contaminating nearly 40,000 wells with sea water.

The war, which took place primarily in the northern parts of Sri Lanka, caused more than 100,000 refugees to flee to southern India. These people now have immense difficulty resettling in Sri Lanka, as their homes and towns have been destroyed by the war.

Sri Lanka does, however, have over 30 welfare programs, and the recently sworn-in government ran upon a platform of plans to reduce poverty rates. Progress has been made, even in spite of these obstacles.

Of course, many improvements can still be made as well. Funding for these welfare programs has been low and is declining, and the government record-keeping system is very inefficient–much of it is not yet digitized. There is not enough data surrounding poverty levels in the country, and, without this knowledge, it is difficult to put in place effective reform.

The poverty rate in Sri Lanka has decreased and is at an all-time low, but there are still major improvements to be made. The government will need to increase funding, and there are many gaps in knowledge that will need to be filled if the poverty rate is to decrease any further.

Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Sri Lanka
As a country that endures two monsoon seasons and is surrounded by several bodies of water, Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to floods. The country’s floods do not just damage physical property, but also pose a threat to Sri Lankans’ health. Most of the common diseases in Sri Lanka are so due to the danger the floods pose.

The floods that affect Sri Lanka leave the nation’s people with damaged homes and an excess of unsanitary water. With the contaminated floodwater lingering around, more mosquitoes are likely to come, thus increasing the risk of dengue fever. Due to severe flooding that occurred this past May, affecting more than 600,000 people, many are now concerned that dengue cases will increase.

Based on statistics, they have a valid reason to worry. In the past seven months alone, there were already 80,732 dengue fever cases reported in the nation. This number tremendously exceeds the number of cases the country had seen from 2000-2016. While there are four different types of dengue fever, DENV-2 is the one that is mostly spreading throughout the nation right now.

Besides dengue fever, there are other common diseases in Sri Lanka that pose an increased threat due to flooding. One of these diseases is cholera. With 172,454 reported cases in 2015, cholera remains an issue in today’s world. The abundance of contaminated floodwater increases the risk of Sri Lankans contracting cholera.

In response to the recent flooding crisis, Australia is giving the World Health Organization money to establish programs that focus on dengue fever in Sri Lanka. The World Health Organization is also working with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health to assist with any medical issues related to the flood. The World Health Organization is supplying the nation with more beds in an effort to provide more people with medical assistance.

Although the people of Sri Lanka struggle from the aftermath of monsoons, they, fortunately, receive help from others.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr