ECONOMYNEXT – A relief programme to provide a one-time cash allowance of Rs 5,000 each to 2.8 million low-income families for the upcoming Sinhala & Tamil New Year is in jeopardy as many local state official associations have decided to boycott the programme.
A Finance Ministry circular issued on April 10 announced that the payment will be made to families belonging to seven categories: low-income families, Samurdhi beneficiary families, families receiving senior citizens’ allowance, differently-abled persons, kidney patients, elders aged over 100 and those who became qualified under the above six categories after submitting appeals.
However, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Grama Niladhari Association Thiraj Dalpadadu told EconomyNext that the association has decided to boycott the programme due to three main reasons.
The first reason, he said, is the limited time available to distribute the allowance as a lot of Samurdhi officers and officers at the Divisional Secretariats, Samurdhi banks and other state institutions are involved – some of whom have gone on holiday for Avurudu.
“The circular was issued on April 10 which was a Saturday and the government declared April 12 as a government holiday, so there were issues in organising it,” he added.
Secondly, Dalpadadu said, the circular clearly states that funds are to be provided through the Samurdhi banks and, on previous occasions where cash allowances were distributed during the pandemic, allegations were levelled at Grama Niladhari officers by various quarters that they had misused the funds.
Finally, he said, the last time Rs 5,000 was distributed there were 10 categories of families who were eligible, but the number has been limited to seven this time, effectively disqualifying 50% of the families who received the allowance last time.
“When those families don’t receive their allowance as expected, especially at a time when people are facing financial difficulties, it creates an unnecessary problem and so we have decided to boycott the programme,” said Dalpadadu.
Meanwhile, the Samurdhi Development Officers’ Union and Development Officers’ Service Union have also decided to boycott the programme citing similar reasons.
State Minister of Samurdhi Shehan Semasinghe said on Saturday that though the initial estimates for the programme were 2.8 million family units, the latest data has revealed that three million families are eligible to receive the allowance. (Colombo/Apr12/2021)