Sri Lanka’s new govt questions poverty indicators

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s new government wants to reassess existing poverty indicators and go beyond income measurements, Harsha De Silva, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs said.

"I am not happy with poverty measurements in Sri Lanka," he declared at a recent forum, noting that he does not believe the numbers actually reflect existing poverty levels.

According to a new United Nations report on how the island had performed in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and government surveys, the estate sector saw a sharp reduction in poverty from 32 percent in 2006-2007 to 11.4 percent in 2009-2010.

This was at least partly attributable to the increase in wages granted in 2009. Estate sector poverty fell further to 10.9 percent in 2012-2013.

But De Silva questioned the sharp reduction in estate poverty, saying "I can’t see how this could have happened in estate sector."

He told the forum, held to discuss the UN Millennium Development Goals report, that he also does not agree with the current poverty line and called for a wider interpretation, instead of measuring only income.

"Poverty essentially has to be more than income," he said. "It is a holistic measurement and we need to measure poverty beyond income.

"Even if we continue with the income-based poverty line we need to have a more meaningful indicator of poverty."

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