- Government hopes to complete document by April 10
By Damith Wickremasekara
A US$ 750 million loan from the World Bank has been delayed as verification of welfare beneficiaries has not been completed, among other pre-requisites, the Sunday Times learns.
The verification of the beneficiaries was due to be completed by Friday, March 31, but has now been deferred till April 10, thereby delaying the process of applying for the facility.
Under the programme, the recipients will be entitled to Rs 14,000 a month. Both, the IMF and the World Bank have pointed out that several Samurdhi beneficiaries are not below the poverty line and, therefore, not entitled to the benefits. The Government has been asked to prepare a list of ‘genuine’ beneficiaries.
The welfare beneficiary scheme is among six prerequisites to obtain the USD 750 million loan, following the IMF facility obtained two weeks ago.
Among the other pre-conditions are the opening of a Budget office in Parliament, the digitalisation of revenue collection and payments of Inland Revenue, and reforms in the Central Bank.
A senior government official confirmed these were World Bank prerequisites that had yet to be fulfilled. He said that all the requirements could be completed soon with some of them already in the process of being completed.
The Government also needs to introduce a Social Security Bill under which the welfare payments would be made.
A senior Treasury official said the bill was due to be presented in Parliament this month and the programme could begin in June.
Welfare Benefits Board Chairman B. Wijeratne told the Sunday Times that 3.7 million applications had been received so far for social benefits and 2.4 million applicants had been verified up to date.
“There are several processes to complete the verification. They include an appeal process. We are trying to keep to the schedule,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Government had carried out a trial run of the new system by trying to disburse welfare benefits on the existing beneficiary list and found that Rs 500 million had been overclaimed, indicating that some of the beneficiaries had registered more than once. The new system is to be monitored by a QR code system.