Oct 03, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government has received the support from a majority of the provincial councils for the government's plans to establish a new department by combining several currently existing poverty alleviation agencies.
Government's proposed Divi Neguma Draft Bill to establish the new Department of Divi Neguma Development has been presented today to three other provincial councils for approval.
The Bill was presented to the North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Southern provincial councils today for debate. Southern Provincial Council passed the bill with a majority of 11 votes and the Sabaragamuwa PC passed it with 15 votes in favor.
The Divi Neguma Department Bill proposes the establishment of the new department by amalgamating the Samurdhi Authority, Southern Development Authority and the Udarata Development Authority to better achieve the grassroots economic development and alleviate poverty.
The Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa presented the Divi Neguma bill to parliament on August 10 and the Bill immediately drew resistance from trade unions.
Samurdhi Development Officers' Union filed a petition against the Bill in the Supreme Court asking the Court to determine whether one or more of the provisions in the Bill are inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court deciding on the constitutionality of the bill informed the parliament that the bill cannot be approved in the legislature without being sanctioned by provincial councils.
Following the Supreme Court directive the government presented the bill to the eight functioning provincial councils and to the governor of the Northern Province where the PC government is not yet established after the end of the war.
The Western, Eastern, Central, Uva and North Western PCs have already endorsed the Bill and the Governor of the Northern Province has given approval on behalf of the Northern Provincial Council.
The draft bill passed in the Western PC with a majority of 40 votes with 64 votes in favor and 24 against. The Eastern Provincial Council yesterday passed the bill with a majority of six votes with 21 members voting in favor and 15 against.
The Central Provincial Council passed the Bill with a majority of 19 with 36 votes in favor and 17 against.
According to the government Economic Development Minister employees of the combining institutions and others connected with the Samurdhi Programme would get the highest dividends from the establishment of the new department.
The new Divi Neguma Department will absorb all the officers and employees of all the development authorities including more than 27,000 Samurdhi officers. All employees are eligible for pension.
In addition the Bill will make provision to establish Divi Neguma Community Based Organizations at rural level and to provide for a coordinating network at the district level and national level.
Continuing the economic development process according to the national policy of alleviating poverty and ensuring social equity, the Bill proposes establishing Divi Neguma Community Based Banks and Divi Neguma Community Based Banking Societies to build regional, district and national level coordinating network and developing and promoting a micro-finance banking system.
All Samurdhi Development Banks will be converted into Divi Neguma Development Banks under the new department.
The Bill will be taken up for debate and approval in the parliament following the approval of all provincial councils.
The Economic Development Minister has assured that the government introduced the Bill with the genuine intention of improving the living conditions of low-income groups and the public need not to have baseless fears.