As Sri Lanka’s economic crisis worsens and tax increases, utility price hikes and budget cuts begin, the need for a meaningful social safety net for the poor has become a key public policy focus. Yet, Sri Lanka has a bad track record of properly identifying, and providing support to, vulnerable population groups. Current approaches to welfare design risk replicating existing problems. In this in-depth interview, featuring key data points, Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike (a former senior Central Banker, and poverty data expert), speaks about the problems with our current approaches and ideas for better solutions. It is essential viewing for anyone interested in this topic – whether you are a researcher, public policy professional, or civil society organization leader. As we hear about the need for austerity measures like budget cuts and increases to prices of utilities to overcome the current macro instability, which comes on the back of the severe economic crisis today and Covid-19 fallout that preceded it, we explore the channels of impact for the poor and whether the authorities even have the right tools to properly identify who the poor and vulnerable are. Anila also provided her perspectives on social safety nets given the current debate about mechanisms to support the poor. In the interview she responded to the question of “what do we really know about what works and what doesn’t with existing social safety nets?”. Finally, we asked her for ideas and solutions and probed, “if she had to formulate and implement support measures for poor and vulnerable population groups right now, what would some of the features of her approach be?”.
The full video is available on our Youtube channel