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Revamping welfare: Is Aswesuma the salvation Sri Lanka’s poor hoped for?



Lakshila Wanigasinghe is a Research Officer at the IPS with research interests in poverty, social welfare, development, education, and health. She holds an MSc in Economics with a concentration in Development Economics and a BA in Economics with concentrations in International, Financial and Law and Economics from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), US. (

By Lakshila Wanigasinghe

With the introduction of Aswesuma as a brand-new initiative targeting the poor and vulnerable, social protection in Sri Lanka has been a much-debated subject lately.

Aswesuma primarily intends to overcome some key weaknesses of existing social protection programmes – at least on paper – but several challenges prevail. However, opinions regarding its capabilities to accomplish this remain ambiguous. The public has been protesting the scheme, and opposition party critics have called it an unfair political gimmick. Initially scheduled for disbursement in July 2023, the benefits for July finally commenced distribution last Monday (28th August) for 800,000 beneficiaries.

This blog delves into the key areas that warrant clarification, with the hope that authorities will address these concerns transparently.

Eligibility and Beneficiary Selection

Aswesuma introduces a multi-dimensional approach to poverty assessment, a notable improvement from the family size-based method employed by its predecessor, Samurdhi. Aswesuma employs six criteria measured by 22 indicators to determine if a household is non-poor or poor and deserving of assistance. Accordingly, eligible families receive assistance under four social groups (Table 1).

Publication of Aswesuma’s initial eligibility lists sparked concerns as many households called it unfair and demanded re-evaluations. As a result, 982,770 appeals and 62,368 objections arose from the process that followed. The sizeable appeals and objections raise questions about the accuracy of the selection process. Nearly 650,000 appeals were from already approved beneficiaries requesting an upgrade to a higher allowance category. However, without information on the cut-off points for the total number of families per beneficiary category and criteria determining allowance amounts, it is difficult to draw any conclusions regarding the methodologies’ ability to identify the most deserving families. The appropriateness of certain indicators, such as those assessing the “economic level”, comes under scrutiny due to their sensitivity to fluctuations like electricity consumption patterns and inconsistent monthly incomes.

Fate of Samurdhi Recipients

In 2022, Samurdhi cash transfers supported approximately 1.76 million beneficiaries. In contrast, Aswesuma aims to support 2 million beneficiaries annually. So far, Aswesuma has over 1.7 million eligible beneficiaries, of which nearly 950,000 are families that did not previously receive government welfare assistance. Over 1.28 million Samurdhi recipient households applied for Aswesuma, of which only 887,653 are eligible.

Cabinet approval was recently granted to extend Samurdhi cash transfers to 393,094 existing Samurdhi recipients unqualified for Aswesuma until the appeals and objections process concludes. Perhaps some of them will be included in Aswesuma’s final beneficiary list; however, it is unlikely that all will. Since Aswesuma attempts to correct Samurdhi’s targeting errors, understandably, some existing Samurdhi recipients are left out. However, it is important to ensure that those truly in need are included. Failure to do so will remove the support these families receive through Samurdhi and leave them without Aswesuma. Additionally, uncertainties linger for recipients who did not apply for Aswesuma (households that were unaware of the application process, missed the deadline, etc.), leaving them without any support.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Aswesuma will conduct annual beneficiary evaluations to ensure support to the most deserving. While eliminating non-deserving beneficiaries (one of Samurdhi’s key weaknesses) is much needed, concerns exist as it is unclear how reassessments will occur. Conducting household surveys annually is tedious, especially considering that beneficiaries are expected to be selected for Aswesuma’s second year even before the official commencement of the first.

The transitional and vulnerable beneficiary categories only receive assistance for a short period. Given this, will new beneficiaries be added to these categories after the end of the allowance period or following yearly revaluations?

Samurdhi Bank Regulation

Aswesuma benefits will be dispensed as direct deposits to beneficiary bank accounts. This is only to involve banks regulated under the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL). This approach aims to prevent third-party involvement in the process, as seen with Samurdhi, where cash transfers were done via the Samurdhi Department.

Interest has been shown to regulate Samurdhi banks and bring them under the purview of the CBSL. In this regard, discussions are underway on developing a credible system to regulate the Samurdhi banking system. Samurdhi banks established under the Samurdhi Authority Act operate as independent bodies. Hence, regulating them would likely require amendments to the Act, which is a complex and time-consuming task.

After regulation, using Samurdhi banks for the Aswesuma benefit disbursement seems like the obvious choice. Samurdhi is a familiar entity among villagers, and its widespread banking network makes it easily accessible rurally. However, the regulation has not yet been confirmed, and if it were to occur, it cannot be done within a short span of time, and hence, its ability to support Aswesuma in its initial three years is unlikely.

Continuity of Aswesuma

Attempting to correct the weaknesses of existing poverty alleviation programmes is a good starting point. However, this must be done in a logical manner. On paper, Aswesuma seems somewhat convincing, yet its practical application is to be seen.

With a three-year timeline, Aswesuma’s true impact on poverty alleviation remains uncertain. Whether the programme will be extended or if Aswesuma will conclude as a short-term relief initiative and be replaced with a new long-term poverty-targeted programme remains undisclosed.

Nonetheless, the success or failure of Aswesuma depends not on its ability to provide temporary relief but on whether it helps families graduate from poverty. Ultimately, the focus of any poverty-targeted programme should be to strive towards poverty alleviation. Although this is a long-term goal, benefits received through Aswesuma should at least push recipients toward improving their lives and livelihoods. Aswesuma should have a mechanism to support families in discontinuing their reliance on government assistance. Irrespective of whether this is done through Aswesuma or Samurdhi, it is important to communicate these plans with all relevant parties clearly.

Aswesuma’s continuity involves better information dissemination to avoid confusion among recipients, policymakers, and implementors. Flexibility will be key as this is undoubtedly a learning experience with corrective measures to be taken along the way. As the scheme encountered several practical challenges during implementation, addressing them and providing the first instalment to the most deserving families is of utmost importance now.

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Strong Q4 net profit growth boosts Teejay Lanka’s outlook for year ahead



Teejay Lanka Chairman Ajit Gunewardene (left) and CEO MPubudu De Silva

Strong net profit growth in the final quarter of 2023-24 has enabled Teejay Lanka PLC to end the financial year on an optimistic note despite the impacts of the appreciation of the Rupee, which contributed to its 12-month results falling below those of the preceding year.

Sri Lanka’s first multinational textile manufacturer has reported net profit of Rs 549.1 million for the three months ending 31st March 2024, up 260% over the corresponding quarter of the previous year and a 15% improvement over the preceding quarter.

Despite an increase in sales volumes, the Group’s revenue for the quarter, at Rs 15.3 billion, was down 4% over the figure for the third quarter of the year and 12% lower than the revenue of the corresponding quarter of the previous year. This was due to the appreciation of the Sri Lanka Rupee.

For the year ending 31st March 2024, Teejay Lanka reported revenue of Rs 60.8 billion, profit before tax of Rs 1.6 billion, and net profit of Rs 1.1 billion, reflecting declines of 28%, 49% and 48% respectively over 2022-23 as a result of the softening of the global market conditions during the year.

Nevertheless, the Group ended the financial year with a strong balance sheet with a cash and cash equivalents balance of Rs 8.9 billion and a net assets base of Rs 30.1 billion. Teejay’s net assets value per share of Rs 42 was lower by 6% when compared to the corresponding quarter, stemming from the strengthening of the Rupee against the Dollar, the Group said.

“The Group has reported gross profit of Rs 1.5 billion representing a year-on-year increase of 27% and a 17% increase when compared to the third quarter, as a result of the effective utilisation of the Group’s capacity at its two locations,” Teejay Lanka CEO Pubudu De Silva said. “Further optimisation of capacity utilisation and operational efficiency and stability in yarn prices have positively contributed to this growth, strengthening our confidence for the year ahead.”

Commenting on the Group’s performance in the concluded financial year, Teejay Lanka Chairman Ajit Gunewardene said it was encouraging to note the success of the multifaceted strategic initiatives undertaken to reverse the losses of the first quarter and to respond to market dynamics.

Gunewardene added: “The Group’s long-term priorities include digitalization, establishing and executing a robust ESG framework, reducing costs, developing new products, enhancing synthetic capacity, and uplifting and empowering human capital to enhance resourcefulness. These strategies are expected to come into effect in the current financial year, indicating promising prospects for the future and enabling the Group to mitigate the impact of identified pressures, volatilities, and challenges.”

The Teejay Group owns manufacturing facilities in Sri Lanka and India, along with a state-of-the-art printing facility in Sri Lanka. An ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and OHSAS 18001:2007 compliant company and the first in the industry to develop green fabric, Teejay Lanka was also the first textile manufacturer in Sri Lanka to receive membership of the US Cotton Trust Protocol. Teejay is a public quoted company with 40 per cent public ownership and the backing of Sri Lanka’s largest apparel exporter Brandix Lanka which has a 33 per cent stake in the Company. Pacific Textiles of Hong Kong, whose key shareholder is the Tokyo Stock Exchange listed Toray Industries Inc., owns 27 per cent of Teejay Lanka.(Teejay Lanka)

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SriLankan Cargo partners with CargoAi to enhance airfreight booking and payment experience



SriLankan Cargo, the cargo arm of SriLankan Airlines, has partnered with CargoAi, a leader in digital freight solutions, to simplify and enhance the airfreight booking and payment process for users

SriLankan Cargo, the cargo arm of SriLankan Airlines, has partnered with CargoAi, a leader in digital freight solutions, to simplify and enhance its airfreight booking and payment processes, and bring more transparency and velocity for users than ever.

The integration of SriLankan Cargo’s airfreight services into CargoAi’s ecosystem gives users access to online booking and instant cross-border payment capabilities, while allowing SriLankan Cargo to increase its reach and support forwarders that were previously untapped.

CargoAi’s integration with SriLankan Cargo also streamlines payment processes by offering multiple payment methods, ranging from local transfers to credit card payments, removing the reliance on cash payments and enhancing security and efficiency in financial transactions. Additionally, CargoAi’s CargoWALLET platform facilitates the reconciliation process, automating tasks that were previously manual and time-consuming.

For freight forwarders, the integration also means that they no longer need to provide a bank guarantee or pay yearly subscriptions. Everything is seamlessly integrated with CargoMART, simplifying operations and reducing overhead costs, allowing forwarders to focus on core business operations without the burden of administrative complexities.

Chaminda Perera, Head of Cargo of SriLankan Airlines commented by saying, “Our partnership with CargoAi marks another significant stride in our digitalization journey, aimed at expanding our horizons. We will be able to enhance the visibility of our inventory and offer customers a convenient airfreight booking experience. We are looking forward to extending our market reach and engaging with businesses of all scales with CargoAi.”

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Mövenpick Hotel Colombo unveils ‘Space’ wellness brand



Mövenpick Hotel Colombo proudly introduces ‘Space’, an innovative wellness brand designed to transcend boundaries and cultivate a culture of holistic well-being. The launch of ‘Space’ underscores the hotel’s unwavering commitment to fostering a vibrant and sustainable living experience for all.

‘Space’ represents a transformative leap forward for Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, consolidating its diverse offerings into a singular platform dedicated to holistic wellness. From the rejuvenating embrace of dance therapy to the serene tranquility of outdoor yoga and the invigorating energy of cross-functional fitness, ‘Space’ curates an unparalleled array of experiences tailored to nurture the mind, body, and spirit. Complemented by a thoughtfully curated selection of therapeutic treatments and a culinary journey inspired by the principles of nourishment and balance, ‘Space’ promises to redefine wellness in Colombo.

At its core, ‘Space’ is more than a brand – it’s a philosophy, advocating for the creation of space for oneself and others in the pursuit of a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. Through its multifaceted approach to wellness, ‘Space’ invites individuals to reclaim their well-being, fostering a sense of empowerment, connection, and community.

In a bold move towards inclusivity and accessibility, Mövenpick Hotel Colombo has brought together its entire spectrum of wellness offerings under the umbrella of ‘Space’. By consolidating these diverse experiences into one cohesive platform, the hotel seeks to ensure that every individual in the community has the opportunity to access and benefit from the transformative power of wellness. From guests seeking a rejuvenating escape to locals yearning for a sanctuary of self-discovery, ‘Space’ offers a welcoming embrace to all who seek balance and vitality.

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