During a recent parliamentary session, Harsha de Silva expressed his support for the new welfare gazette while raising some concerns about certain aspects of the bill. He started by commending the government for changing the term “disabled” to “differently-abled” in the gazette and urged other government institutions to follow suit.
De Silva also praised the government’s decision to use independent graduates to conduct the poverty survey, as he believes it will provide impartial data. He highlighted a study by UNICEF that found the Samurdhi benefits to be inequitable, with an exclusion error of 58%. Additionally, he raised concerns about the politicization and lack of regulation of Samurdhi banks.
Although President Wickramasinghe has expressed his intention to bring the Samurdhi Department under the Central Bank back in 2018, it never happened thus, de Silva urged the government to take action on this matter.
In response to calls from MPs to bring people above the poverty line, de Silva suggested the government complete the ‘Prabashwara’ project in Dambulla, a 5000MT temperature and humidity-controlled warehouse, which is almost 90% completed. He believes this will have a positive impact on rural farmers and help lift them out of poverty. He also noted that the Indian High Commission, which initially funded the project, has expressed its willingness to provide additional funds if necessary.
However, de Silva did express some concerns about the new welfare gazette, particularly regarding the distribution of funds and the lack of a clear system for measuring whether individuals have come above the poverty line. Nonetheless, he remains supportive of the bill overall.