- Govt. to develop a single registry of citizens with information on family structure and economic characteristics
- Newly set up Welfare Benefits Board will develop new selection criteria based on the data in the registry
- Project expected to strengthen govt.’s capacity to monitor and improve welfare programmes
Sri Lanka has signed an agreement to obtain a US $ 75 million World Bank credit line to support the country’s welfare programmes and improve the equity, efficiency and transparency of its social safety net system.
The credit will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, through the IDA Scale-Up facility. It has a final maturity of 24 years, including a grace period of five years.
The project will allow the government to develop a single registry of citizens with information on family structure and economic characteristics. The Welfare Benefits Board, set up to manage the selection and payment of beneficiaries, will develop new selection criteria based on the data in the registry.
A World Bank statement said this will make identification fairer and more transparent and ensure that benefits reach the intended households. The project will also strengthen the government’s capacity to monitor and improve welfare programmes.
World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough and Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samarathunga signed the project on behalf of the World Bank and government.
“Safety net programmes are a safety valve for Sri Lanka’s poor and vulnerable populations. By increasing the efficiency of expenditures, the project will make social spending more sustainable, while ensuring that targeted households receive the full benefit of the programmes.
Over time, it will also help the government refine programmes to address emerging fiscal challenges, such as an aging population,” Pswarayi-Riddihough said.
The project will be implemented by the Finance Ministry in partnership with the National Policies and Economic Affairs Ministry, Social Empowerment and Welfare Ministry and Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA).
Today, Sri Lanka has more than 30 welfare programmes operated by 11 different ministries. A lack of digital record-keeping limits their capacity to coordinate, monitor and evaluate and prevent fraud and mismanagement. While the programme costs have risen gradually over time, the coverage of the poorest households has fallen.
An analysis by the World Bank has shown that the welfare programmes have had a decreasing impact on poverty over the past decade. This poses a challenge when the population is aging, a shift that is likely to increase demand for social assistance in coming years.
Data in the registry will be updated periodically, with records reviewed to ensure that only eligible beneficiaries remain in the programmes. To prevent fraudulent applications, each individual will be identified using biometric technology.
A ‘one-stop shop’ platform will be developed to harmonize management of welfare programmes at the divisional secretariat level. This will help improve the customer service experience and reduce application processing times for beneficiaries. Through these initiatives, the project will help modernize Sri Lanka’s welfare system for citizens’ future needs.
“Governments around the world increasingly focus on system approaches to social protection,” said Senior Economist and World Bank Task Team Leader for the project Thomas Walker.
“Harmonizing the delivery of programmes has the potential to enhance each programme’s performance and increase the overall benefit of social spending for those most in need,” he added.