Sri Lanka is leading to a surge in optimism for stronger economic growth and poverty reduction, a latest World Bank report has said, adding that even with conflict, the country has posted strong growth rates, putting the country on track to achieve most Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
According to the report, during the last five years, poverty has declined rapidly. For example, the poorest Southern Province has cut poverty in half, from 28 per cent in 2002 to 14 per cent in 2006-7. However, significant challenges loom large, not least addressing reconstruction in the North and East of the country.
The report, quoted by the Presidential Secretariat website, said the Government's Gemi Diriya program (the strength of the villages), seeks to achieve its targets by focusing not only on community infrastructure but also on social services, skills development, access to micro-finance for small businesses and micro-enterprises, and partnerships with the private sector.
"Gemi Diriya is about enhancing people's livelihoods and ensuring a better quality of life," said World Bank project leader Meena Munshi.
Since its inception in 2004, Gemi Diriya has touched the lives of close to 900,000 poor Sri Lankans in over 1,000 villages in Uva, Southern, and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.
The program has financed 2,140 community infrastructure subprojects, generated about 18,500 jobs, and provided support for livelihood activities to 140,000 households. Before the project, about 70 percent of households in the project villages had no access to credit and marketing facilities.
Now, almost 20,000 self-organized savings and production groups are actively mobilizing savings. Savings groups have used their cumulative savings of $5.25 million to leverage credit equal to about ten times that amount, and have invested $17.6 million in more than 125 types of income generating activities, The World Bank's review said.