Economic migrants

Posted Thursday July 23, 2015 by Hazel Durbridge

A Buddha statue in Anuradhapura

This is totally random, but I have been having long conversations with people who both had arranged marriages and who have been economic migrants over the last few days.  I don’t agree with women or men leaving their children for years at a time because it has negative consequences for the children, but I have been forced to re-examine different but not necessarily less deep relationships based on respect, trust and long term shared goals rather than the gratification of immediacy which I probably have a tendency towards. Obviously, they don’t choose this as a first option.  It’s finance driven, but how they emotionally handle it is quite humbling, not least because an extended family infrastructure can depend on the strength of that bond.

I am learning to see arranged marriages as not necessarily a bad thing.


The impact of economics is so stark. These people are physically very beautiful, very fit and 10-15 years younger than me. They will show you their hands and feet, hard and calloused from physical labour and then take my hands and compare without bitterness or rancour. Talk of survival is never shallow.


Cup half full person would say primarily what these people want to know about me is whether I have a good heart.

Cup half empty person would say they can sense a sucker for a sob story a mile off.


Social Services

According to the poverty head count index (2009/10) Batticaloa District had the highest level of poverty in the country – 20.3%. The poverty gap index is 5.1, again the highest in the country (national average is 1.7). The poverty gap index shows how poor the people are who are below the poverty line (HIES 2010). However there is no national data on poverty which is sex disaggregated (CEDAW Shadow report 2010).

There are currently 79,521 families benefiting in the District from the national Samurdhi Social Development Programme. This gives family members with an income of below 2,500Rs a month between 210 – 1,500Rs distributed through the Samurdhi bank. This has reduced from a peak of 86,000 5 years ago, but is still significant.

In addition the

Social Security Fund Programme gives 5,000Rs on the birth of the first and second child, medical treatment of 200Rs per day for one month and 10,000Rs for funeral expenses.

Livelihoods Development Programme will give 40,000Rs to one family (50%) loan for agriculture/marketing start-ups, 80,000Rs for a greenhouse project and for animal husbandry a cattle shed and a goat.

Social Development Programme – offers programmes for alcohol addiction and housing schemes, helping people to build homes.

Micro-finance programme – the Samurdhi Bank gives loans of between 5,000Rs – 500,000Rs at 8% interest. 8-12 groups of 5 ladies conducting small enterprise form societies and apply for loans.

Student Scholarships – 450 A/L students given 3,000Rs for 2 years.

Batticaloa District development Plan DRAFT 2013






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