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 promotes cashless transactions; joins CBSL’s ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ campaign
Chief Guest for the event Money and Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal, CBSL Deputy Governor and National Payments Council chairperson Yvette Fernando, and CBSL Payments and Settlements Director D. Kumaratunge with HNB Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Dilshan Rodrigo as he completes a transaction via HNB SOLO at a merchant stall
HNB PLC, partnered with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to promote the Colombo-leg of ‘Rata Purama LANKA QR’ campaign at Diyatha Uyana, to raise awareness and encourage the public towards cashless payments.
Having already linked LANKA QR to its digital payment app HNB SOLO, the bank was among other financial institutions and telecommunication partners in joining efforts to make cashless QR-code based payments the standard for mobile phones and digital payments countrywide, in moving towards a cashless and digitally-savvy Sri Lanka.
“We are entering a new era of financial technology, where almost all of our daily transactions will require no physical banknotes, but just a smartphone and internet connection with our bank account integrated to a digital payment app.
The Central Bank’s national directive for banks and financial institutions to adopt and integrate LANKA QR into their existing digital payment solutions has prompted an aggressive onboarding of merchants to the new payment solution across the country. With our extensive customer base, SOLO is no doubt a significant contributor to this innovative initiative,” HNB Deputy General Manager – Retail and SME Banking, Sanjay Wijemanne said.
The Colombo-leg of the ‘Rata Purama LANKA QR’ campaign raised awareness regarding SOLO’s many facilities, including zero human interaction, efficiency, and eliminated risks that influenced many vendors to come on board.
Sri Lanka Insurance posts a staggering revenue of Rs. 55.2 billion during 2020
Amidst the turbulent and challenging year Sri Lanka Insurance has closed year 2020 on a positive note recording phenomenal revenue growth with exceptional service innovations.
Sri Lanka Insurance the premier insurer to the nation recorded stellar performance in 2020 to record Rs. 55.2 billion revenue for the year, a marked improvement on the Rs.48.6 billion in the year 2019, a press release said.
It adds – In the year of 2020 Sri Lanka Insurance reported 30 % growth in life insurance premium increasing to Rs.19.2 billion whilst general insurance reported 7% growth in premium grew to Rs. 20.1 billion. The company achieved a combined Gross Written Premium (GWP) growth rate of 17 % during the year. General insurance contributed 51% towards the total GWP whilst Life Insurance contributed 49 %.
‘In continuing with its tradition of leadership, Sri Lanka Insurance in 2020 surpassed its own record to declare a sum of Rs.8.2 billion as bonus to policyholders. The cumulative life insurance bonus paid out during the past 10 years tops a massive Rs.54 billion making the SLIC bonus payout unmatchable.
‘As the national insurer we have witnessed yet another challenging year and the consequences brought out by pandemic outbreak urged us to conduct our business operations in a more empathetic manner. SLIC has always taken the lead to protect the nation and during this difficult time Sri Lanka Insurance launched many initiatives to sustain country’s health defenses while ensuring our customers receive uninterrupted insurance service.
‘As the pioneering insurance company in Sri Lanka we are in the forefront to inculcate the importance of insurance to the masses as a national responsibility on our shoulders. We will further strengthen internal capabilities to serve the nation through innovative and affordable insurance solutions which cater to all Sri Lankans under the ‘Insurance for All” concept. Even though the times are defining we will continue protecting our nation turning obstacles into opportunities.’ noted .Jagath Wellawatta, chairman of SLIC.
Bank of Ceylon empowering nation with Lanka Q
The Bank of Ceylon in its mission to assist the government initiative to empower Sri Lanka through digital technology is joining the customer awareness campaign of Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s Lanka QR digital platform.
Bank of Ceylon had its most recent major awareness programs in Borella and Maharagama along with the other branches in Colombo District in line with the Central Bank’s main program held in “Diyatha Uyana” with the participation of all Lanka QR certified banks on the same day.
Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has organized a series of awareness and promotion campaigns for popularizing Lanka QR with the participation of all Lanka QR certified financial institutions throughout the country with the aim of speeding up the customer adaptation process towards digital banking.
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