Military and Poverty

A critical study in Sri Lanka

by Dr. S. Santhirasegaram, Developing Country Studies, 2013

Santhirasegaram Military and Poverty 2013

5. Conclusion
Military forces employed by 97 percent of majority Singhalese has been getting more economic
benefits from expansion of security forces. Social welfare expenditure from independent to 1980s in Sri Lanka
biased to majority and made political unrest and violent which led to war. Public resources allocated to free
education, health and housing etc went to people passing through parliament which marginalized the minority in
Sri Lanka. From 1990, Sri Lanka’s public resources have been absorbed into the defense in the line of so called
war against terrorism. War related employment increased in Sri Lanka and it has contributed to reduce poverty,
particularly in rural Sinhalese villages. On other side, this poverty reduction has not been taken placed in Tamil
majority area rapidly. Empirical evidences show that there are negative strong relathiship between size of
security forces and level of national poverty in Sri Lanka in time series data. In cross sectional district data,
Sinhalese majority population negatively correlated with population living under the national poverty level. It
clears that military expansion considerably helped to alleviate poverty in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka economic success
in poverty reduction during war period is not rooted from economic fundamentals that have solid foundation in
industrial and agricultural activities, instead, it made by war economy associated with pork barrel ethnic politics.
In developing countries politicians uses poor as hostage to get financial resources from international community.
In Sri Lanka, politician used public resources by wefarism to make political supports from poor. It made ethnic
conflict and war. Politicians have used war to get financial resources from international community and used
poor as war victims. However, the war made employment and income to poor families and reduced overall
poverty. Post war economic development also has been moving toward the military expansion without political
solution to ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It generates employment and income to majority people in Sri Lanka.
Minority in Sri Lanka has been migrating to abroad and getting foreign remittances and reducing poverty
themselves. Military employment and income to majority and foreign employment and remittance income to
minority mostly helped to reduce poverty in Sri Lanka15. It implies that poverty reduction in Sri Lanka has not
been made by efficient and sustainable economic activities. Sri Lanka’s poverty reduction is pork barrel ethnic
political phenomenon, not an economic phenomenon.

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