Military & Poverty

A Critical Study in Sri Lanka

by Selvarathinam Santhirasegaram, Developing Country Studies, Vol.3, No.8, August 2013


Main objective of this study is to show that how military expansion in Sri Lanka contributed to achieve this macroeconomic goal, reduction of unemployment and poverty. Statistical evidences show that percentage of people, living under poverty level negatively correlated with size of military forces in time series data at 96 percent. Percentage of Sinhalese majority people in districts population negatively correlated with percentage of poor in district population in cross sectional data at 59 percent. Sri Lanka’s military expansion creates employment and income to Sinhalese who are employing around 97.1 percent of security forces. Sri Lanka’s per capita military expenditure reached Rs 30.12 per day in 2012 even after ending of war. The earnings of Tamil refugees in developed countries and earnings of Sri Lankan workers in Middle East have considerable tickle down effects on poverty reduction in North and East of Sri Lanka. In this context, contribution of Samurdhi (prosperity of poor) programme in Sri Lanka is hesitant in poverty reduction. Key words: Sri Lanka, Military, Poverty, Pork barrel ethnic politics, and conflicts & war.


There are 96 percent of negative correlation between size of military forces and percentage of people who living under the national poverty level. Figure 1 shows the relationship graphically.

Source: Computed from data of department of census and statistics of Sri Lanka and Rajesh Venugopal (2011)

Rajesh Venugopal (2011) explains the data related Sri Lanka’s military forces. “Despite the burgeoning role of military employment in Sri Lanka, and the widespread anecdotal evidence of its increasing significance in the Sinhalese rural economy there is, (perhaps deliberately for security reasons), virtually no data published on the extent of military employment, and consequently very little analytical or policy discussion of its repercussions. For example, the Census of Public Sector Employees excludes the military altogether from their data; the Quarterly Labour Force data does not separate out military employment as a category of its own”.

Selvarathnam Santhirasegaram

Selvarathnam Santhirasegaram

Selvarathnam Santhirasegaram is Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Jaffna

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