Dr. W. M. Semasinghe
Department of Economics
University of Kelaniya

Dr. W. M. Semasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Kelaniya, obtained his PhD from the University of Kelaniya in August 2009, under a partial financial support of the NCAS. His study was mainly supported by Sida/SAREC Research Collaboration Project between University of Kelaniya and University Goteborg, Sweden. The title of the thesis is “Public Welfare Policies and Rural Poverty in Sri Lanka: with reference to Hambantota District”. The study was supervised jointly by Professor N. K. Dangalla, Department of Geography, University of Kelaniya and Professor Dick Durevall, Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Goteborg University, Sweden. 
In this study he attempted mainly to examine the effects of public welfare policies on the improvement of well-being and on reducing poverty of the rural households in Sri Lanka. He used the fundamentals of Sen’s Capability Framework in assessing multidimensional poverty among the rural households. Logistic Regression Analysis was employed to assess the effects of public welfare policies. Based on the findings, he concluded that public food policy has reasonably contributed to avoid hunger and food insecurity among the rural households. Further, he has concluded that having a healthy life and access to improved sanitation are the most deprived capabilities. Hence, public policies related to these spheres can play a crucial role in improving well-being of and reducing multidimensional poverty among rural households.

Research Abstract of PhD


In Sri Lanka, as one of the first developing nations that understood multidimensional nature of well-being and poverty, public welfare policies are playing a vital role in improving the well-being and reducing poverty incidence for over six decades since independence.

Indeed, Sri Lanka has long standing reputation on the improvement of the social aspects of development as a result of the massive public investments on the sphere. Meanwhile, targeted poverty alleviation programs, which focused on enhancement of income earning abilities and skills of the poor, have made substantial contribution to ease the income aspect of poverty. Sri Lanka’s success story in human development has discussed widely in development literature. However, as empirical evidences shows, considerable number of rural households has not reached to the required achievement levels of most of the essential dimensions, which need to get out from the ill-being. Even though, multidimensional nature of poverty has been well understood even before the independence, the efforts, made to identify this nature of poverty and to design the poverty reduction strategies taking into consideration its multidimensionality, are extremely little.

The main objective of this study is (a) to examine the effects of public welfare policies on the improvement of well-being of the rural households in Sri Lanka. In addition to that the study intends (b. 1) to identify the core dimensions or basic capabilities of multidimensional poverty of rural households, (b.2) to assess the existing level of multidimensional poverty among rural households by adopting an appropriate evaluative framework and (b.3) to identify the most effective public welfare policies in reducing multidimensional poverty of rural households. Retaining the notion of multidimensionality of poverty, this study is based principally on fundamentals of the Sen’s Capability Approach (CA).

The identification of basic capabilities essential for a good life is based on the framework developed mainly by Qizilbash (2002; 2003), which inspired from Kit Fine’s (1975) ‘supervaluationist’ account of vagueness and the writings of Max Black (1937). The identification and aggregation of multidimensional poverty is based on the ‘counting approach’ suggested by Alkire and Foster (2007; 2008). Logit model is developed to assess the effects of public welfare policies on the improvement of well-being of the rural households.

The analysis found food, education, health, housing, drinking water and sanitation as basic capabilities essential for well-being of rural households in Sri Lanka. Even though, they have eliminated significantly the hunger and food insecurity, over two third of the rural households are deprived of at least 1 out of the above 6 capabilities. The highest deprived capability is health. Because of this health policies are the most effective public policy in reducing multidimensional poverty among rural households. Overall, the study concluded that long standing public welfare policies have not capable providing adequate opportunities for the rural households.

Other Profiles of PhDs on NCAS Grants