Strengthening social protection systems is of critical importance to respond to shocks such as COVID-19. They play a vital role in addressing consumption shortfalls and supporting income and job security for affected communities. Many countries have been taking various measures to strengthen their social protection. These include social assistance measures like cash and in-kind transfers, social insurance measures like pensions, unemployment benefits, social security contribution waivers/subsidisation, and active labour market related measures such as wage subsidies and training measures.
The government of Sri Lanka too introduced a relief package that included both financial and non-financial assistance to help households that were affected by the pandemic. One of the key measures was a social protection measure, i.e. a monthly cash transfer of LKR 5,000 for two consecutive months (April and May 2020) to various vulnerable groups. This social protection measure was based on a number of existing social protection schemes like the Samurdhi cash transfer programme, disability assistance, farmers’ and fishermen’s pension schemes etc. In addition, committees were set up in each Grama Niladhari (GN) division/ward to identify and approve other deserving individuals and families for this cash grant.
Sri Lanka’s social protection response to COVID-19 showed a horizontal expansion/scaled-up coverage compared to the pre-COVID-19 level; it covered not only the current beneficiaries of the programmes considered (e.g. Samurdhi, elder’s assistance and disability assistance programmes) but also those who were in the waitlists as well as individuals and families selected by the Committees.
This social protection measure also indicated some level of vertical expansion, i.e. higher level of benefits compared to their pre-COVID-19 levels. Yet, the level of generosity of the benefits (compared to the pre-COVID-19 levels) varied from 0% to over 100% depending on the beneficiary category (see Figure). For example, over 100% increase in benefits was seen among the current beneficiaries of the Samurdhi and elders assistance programme while beneficiaries of the disability assistance programme and kidney patients allowance merely received their regular monthly allowance of LKR 5,000.
Despite the expansion, the cash transfer scheme had a number of limitations. Immediate/short-term measures like distribution of cash assistance are inadequate to sustain the recovery and to mitigate future crises. Long-term measures are required to strengthen Sri Lanka’s social protection.
• Integrated Social Protection System: The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for an integrated social protection system and a unified and coordinated structure at the national level as well as at the divisional level in Sri Lanka. The existing system is a fragmented system with parallel structures.
• Scaled-up /Universal Coverage: The pandemic has also shown that not only the poor and vulnerable, but all segments of the population require protection. This calls for a universal social protection system, including social protection floors.
• Digitisation of Payments: Digital payment systems are key to improve efficiency of the delivery process without delays and higher transaction costs, while complying with health guidelines to combat a pandemic. They do not require both physical mobility of people and payments in cash. Thus, it is time for Sri Lanka too to move towards a digital payment system for delivery of cash transfers.
This Policy Insight is based on the comprehensive chapter on “Harnessing Social Protection During Pandemics” in ‘Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2020’ report – the flagship publication of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). The complete report can be purchased from the Publications Unit of the IPS.
HNB partners with Gammadda to develop Yaya 6 village in Anuradhapura
HNB PLC recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Capital Maharaja Group’s initiative Gammadda Sri Lanka, the country’s largest rural development movement to develop infrastructure facilities of the Yaya 6 village Mahawilachchiya, in the Anuradhapura District.
The project is powered by HNB’s exclusive private banking proposition, The Club HNB, with the goal of engaging members and in opportunities for focused, impactful philanthropy.
A special event was hosted at The Club HNB premises on Greenpath which was attended by special guests from Yaya 6, Gammadda News 1st team and exclusive invitees of The Club HNB, during which HNB Managing Director/ CEO Jonathan Alles and Capital Maharaja Group Director Chevaan Daniel inaugurated the partnership with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.
“Rural communities form the backbone of this nation, therefore, HNB is proud to partner with the Capital Maharaja Group to support their ambitious and vital work under the Gammadda initiative. We are also grateful to The Club HNB membership and our branch network for once again stepping forward and contributing generously towards the upliftment of rural communities across Sri Lanka,” Alles said.
Providing access to clean drinking water is the 1st step in the agenda and a RO plant will be installed under the first phase of the development project. This will not only save lives but also prevent Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu) prevalent in the region.
A new fully furnished library and computer lab will be just two other infrastructural additions to the village school Saliyamala Vidyalaya Pemaduwa, in addition to new washrooms which are to be constructed for the students and staff members. The project also entails renovation and refurbishment of the main road, the village temple, cleaning of the agrarian tank and construction of a new community hall under the initiative.
“It has been amazing working with HNB to achieve our mutual goal of providing Yaya 6 with much-needed infrastructure facilities. This project would not have been possible if not for the HNB customers, who came forward with their generous contributions to help this village in need. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you who made this possible,” Capital Maharaja Group Director Chevaan Daniel said.
Notably, acclaimed Sri Lankan pianist and music director Soundarie David’s composition of ‘Stand up and be the change’, that was created to help raise funds and create awareness about the project was performed at the event by Soul Sounds with music provided by Ranga Dasanayake at the event.
Editor-in-chief and founder of ARTRA magazine Azara Jaleel, who was also present at the event, auctioned off a painting from the ARTRA Canvas collection to The Club HNB members in aid of the project.
“I am happy to be here today, where two great institutions have come together for this great cause. We are fortunate as customers to be able to contribute in any way possible, and we hope to join you in visiting Yaya 6 soon,” a valued Club customer,Mrs Niloo Jayatilleke said.
Those who wish to make a contribution to the initiative can make a payment via HNB SOLO, through a direct payment on the payment app or deposit funds to the account titled ‘We are the change’, account number: 005010173025.
With 252 customer centres across the country, HNB is one of Sri Lanka’s largest, most technologically innovative banks, having won local and global recognition for its efforts to drive forward a new paradigm in digital banking. Over the recent past, the bank was ranked among the World Top 1,000 Banks list compiled by the prestigious UK-based Banker Magazine. HNB has a national rating of AA- (lka) by Fitch Ratings (Lanka) Ltd.
HNB was also declared Best Sub-Custodian Bank in Sri Lanka at the Global Finance Awards 2020, in addition to winning the coveted Best Retail Bank in Sri Lanka Award for the 11th time at the Asian Banker Awards 2020, in recognition of its sustainable growth and continuous improvements in processes, products and services amidst a challenging macroeconomic environment.
The Finance Houses Association announces revision of Self-Regulation Code
The Finance Houses Association of Sri Lanka (FHA) the apex body of all Registered Finance companies has announced the introduction of its revised Self-Regulation Code which has been voluntarily practised by member companies over a long period of time, but has to be adapted to changing times.
The timely revisions to the Code were effected with a view to maintaining the highest standards on strategic and business operations in Sri Lanka’s Non-Banking Financial and Leasing Institutions (NBFI) sector.
The FHA collective of 39 Licensed Finance Companies (LFCs) is the driver of financial inclusion of Sri Lanka’s MSME sector which has a large footprint in the Bottom of the Pyramid segment of the country. The MSME sector is no less than the backbone of Sri Lankan economy involving over 70% of businesses in Sri Lanka, providing employment for 45% of the labor force and generating 52% of GDP.
Titled “Code of Conduct of Licensed Finance Companies Sri Lanka” the updated instrument was handed over to the Governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka Prof. W. D. Lakshman and Bank’s officials by FHA Council members on March 18 at the Central Bank premises.
Niroshan Udage, chairman of FHA elaborated: “FHA’s time tested gentlemen’s agreement that was codified some time ago needed revisions and updates as per the requirements of today’s changing times. The overall objectives of updating the Code were to comply to all current regulatory and legal requirements while adhering to industry best practices. We take humble pride in the fact that the Code was not imposed on our sector by any authority but was self-introduced by all FHA members on their own will, which demonstrates the members’ strong commitment to sectoral integrity and their social responsibility.”
On March 18 members of FHA also handed over their Sustainability Mandate to the Governor of Central Bank Prof. W. D. Lakshman and top officials of the Bank. “The purpose of the Sustainability Mandate is to serve as the guideline for the LFCs to integrate sustainability principles holistically into their businesses, enabling sustainable value creation through their own financing approaches, in line with defined sustainability guidelines that would ultimately contribute towards national sustainability agenda and UN Sustainable Development Goals” said chairman Niroshan Udage.
‘CSE to bounce back, provided Corona-19 is held in check’
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
The CSE was, once again, somewhat sluggish yesterday on account of investor fears over a possible Covid-19 third wave, but the expectation in some sections that May corporate earnings will be exceptionally good had an uplifting impact on the market during the latter part of the day. The CSE could be expected to bounce back, top stock market analysts said.
” CSE will bounce back within the next few weeks if the Covid 19 new wave does not impact the global scenario, Head of Sales, Softlogic Stockbrokers (Pvt) Ltd. Eardley Kern told ‘The Island Financial Review’.
He said that the upcoming quarterly corporate earnings will likely be among the best in recent times and this would enable the market to perform in a positive way.
Windforce Ltd., the renewable energy firm, began trading above its price of Rs. 16 per share yesterday after raising Rs. 3.2 billion for wind power projects in Sri Lanka and Senegal. It contributed more than 28 percent to market turnover from its IPO, Kern said
Windforce stocks fetched Rs. 17.90 initially and rose to as much as Rs. 19.00 in intra-day trading, after being heavily oversubscribed, but settled at Rs. 18, which was an increase of Rs. 2.40 or 15 percent.
Amid those developments, both indices moved downwards. All Share Price Index declined by 105.53 points and S and P SL20 went down by 47.08 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 2.61 billion with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in Windforce, which crossed 7.2 million shares to the tune of Rs. 131.6 million; its shares traded at Rs. 18.50 and Sampath Bank 400,000 shares crossed for Rs. 20.4 million; its shares fetching Rs. 51.
In the retail market, five main contributors to the turnover were, Windforce Rs. 738 million (40.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 281.5 million (44.6 million shares traded), Dipped Products Rs. 195 million (3.4 million shares traded), Piramal Glass Rs. 126.4 million (11 million shares traded) and Hayleys Rs. 113 million (1.5 million shares traded). During the day 139.3 million share volumes changed hands in 19927 transactions.
“The indices exhibited significant volatility during the early hours of trading and witnessed a continuous downwards movement during the whole session but Windforce gave some notable impetus to the market yesterday, analysts said.
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