President instructs government officials to provide relief to low-income families without leaving anyone behind

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – President Ranil Wickremesinghe instructed officials to ensure no one in need is overlooked in providing rice to low-income families.

In addition, the President directed the officers to purchase adequate rice to feed 2.85 million families subject to a maximum of Rs. 20 billion.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe gave these instructions Yesterday (14) while attending a discussion related to the purchase of paddy at the Ministry of Defense.

The President further instructed that the paddy be purchased, milled and the rice be distributed among low-income earners through a transparent mechanism.

Previously, it was decided to allocate Rs. 10 billion to purchase 61,600 metric tons of paddy under the program of providing 2 million low-income families with 10 kg of rice each per month over a period of two months, free of charge.

However, it was revealed during this discussion that 2.85 million families have been identified as being in need of this assistance.

Accordingly, President Ranil Wickremesinghe directed the officials to implement the program for all those people.

President Wickremesinghe said the Government is set to purchase rice worth Rs. 20 billion to distribute to 2,850,000 low-income families as part of its food security program and the government will protect the rice price by providing a guaranteed price.

He said the District and Divisional Secretaries have been delegated the task of purchasing paddy stocks.

“The government will not sell rice, and a full-time team will be deployed to take this program forward,” the President stated,

“A formal mechanism for distributing rice to eligible people in all 25 districts will be developed. The government is taking measures to prevent large-scale paddy mill owners from exerting unnecessary influence in purchasing paddy. The government aims to label the grant given to low-income families as “relief rice” to prevent its resale. Members of Parliament are being consulted, and discussions are on-going with the District Secretaries,” the President explained.

However, this necessitates the deployment of a full-time team. The agreement was expressed during the discussion with the security forces to release a group of officials from Ministry of Defense for this purpose.

“Obtaining accurate data is crucial for the program’s progress. If government officials are uncooperative at the village level, a contracted team should be recruited to expedite data collection. They should receive priority for future vacancies, and retired officials may also provide assistance. All activities must be completed within a designated timeframe,” the President instructed.

Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake said progress of data collection efforts is not satisfactory.

“We are currently in the process of establishing a social welfare safety net with support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. However, we are not satisfied with the progress of our data collection efforts thus far. As such, we plan to meet with the District Secretaries to discuss this matter and move forward with the necessary work.”

President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake said the establishment of the social welfare safety net must not be sabotaged and the completion of these activities should be achieved by March 31.

Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Trade Minister Nalin Fernando, State Ministers Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Anupa Pasqual and Ashoka Priyantha, Prime Minister’s Secretary Anura Dissanayake, Defense Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne (Retd), Senior Presidential Adviser on Food Security Dr. Suren Batagoda, Chief of Defense Staff General Shavendra Silva, and several others participated in this discussion while many District Secretaries joined in through zoom technology.


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