The government expects to spend Rs. 206 billion annually on the ‘Aswesuma’ program despite only Rs. 144 billion being spent on welfare benefits in 2022, Finance State Minister Shehan Semasinghe says.

As per the agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, Sri Lanka had agreed to spend a minimum of Rs. 187 billion annually to uplift the poor and vulnerable in the country, however, the government has gone above and beyond earmarking Rs. 62 billion on welfare benefits this year in comparison to 2022.

Addressing a press conference held at the Presidential Media Centre on Wednesday (July 12), Semasinghe said it has taken about 20 years to put in line a systematic and transparent method to identify the underprivileged and those in need of welfare benefits.

Speaking on the ‘Aswesuma’ welfare benefits scheme, the state minister noted that out of the 982,770 appeals received thus far, a total of 650,000 have been submitted by the individuals whose names are already included in the published list, demanding that their names be upgraded from the category they are already in, to a category with more benefits. The Welfare Benefits Board has meanwhile received 62,368 objections for the ‘Aswesuma’ program.

He mentioned that all selected ‘Aswesuma’ beneficiaries who have submitted neither appeals nor objections would receive the first payment within this month for all candidates elected and who have not received objections or appeals, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said.