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Politics, Economic Policy and Social Provisioning:Growth and Dismantling of the Welfare State in Sri Lanka
David Dunham
With growing inequality, social exclusion and reduced social protection under neo-liberal economic policies, there is renewed interest in universal social provisioning to ensure that everyone has access to basic services and to a minimum standard of living. This article asks what history can tell us about problems that are likely to be encountered. It looks at the case of Sri Lanka—a country with an extensive and much-acclaimed welfare state in the 1970s that has since been gradually dismantled. It examines the conventional explanation of what has happened and contrasts it with an alternative view that highlights the importance of political support, the adequacy of the conceptualisation that underlies the model, and technical assumptions of “good governance” that are too often taken for granted.

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