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World Bank hails ‘Aswesuma’ social welfare program as evolutionary step

By: Staff Writer

Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s Aswesuma’ social welfare program for the vulnerable community has taken a paradigm shift from the earlier model, a high World Bank official claimed.

He underscored the need for timely recertification and implementation of grievance mechanisms for successful program integration.

World Bank Country Director Faris Hadad-Zervos this week described the ‘Aswesuma’ social welfare program as an evolutionary initiative designed to support the poor and vulnerable amid the current economic crisis.

Speaking at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce ‘Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2023’ he highlighted the Government-led program, with World Bank technical assistance, aims to minimise political interference and ensure a people-centric approach, distinguishing it from its predecessors.

The Country Director acknowledged that while Aswesuma might require some adjustments, it represents a significant improvement over previous initiatives.

He emphasised the program’s departure from the earlier model, stating, “Key features of the Aswesuma initiative include the direct transfer of benefits to beneficiaries’ bank accounts, increasing financial inclusion and minimising opportunities for political elites to exploit the system.

“Previous initiative consisted of 12% of the highest income earners benefiting from the Government’s social welfare benefit program.

But now only the deserving will receive it and allow new entrants as the existing groups eventually graduate from the vulnerable status,” he added.

Hadad-Zervos stressed the importance of timely recertification and the implementation of grievance mechanisms by authorities to ensure the program’s successful integration.

“The program should remain dynamic, inclusive, effective, and transparent,” he stressed, underlining the need for ongoing adaptability to changing circumstances.

This commitment aligns with the World Bank’s vision for a welfare program that serves the intended recipients – the poor and vulnerable.

Providing insights into the financial support extended by the World Bank in 2023, Hadad-Zervos revealed a total disbursement of $ 850 million based on achieved milestones.
It includes US $ 500 million for budgetary support, $ 200 million for social protection programs and $ 150 million allocated for a financial sector safety program.

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