Household entitlements during wartime: The experience of Sri Lanka

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Ams/Girona*barri Lib]On: 08 October 2014, At: 07:50Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Household entitlements duringwartime: The experience of SriLankaMeghan O'Sullivan a ba Brasenose College , Oxford , OX1 4AJ , UKb International Development Centre , University of Oxford ,Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford , OX1 3LA , UKPublished online: 26 Nov 2007.

    To cite this article: Meghan O'Sullivan (1997) Household entitlements during wartime:The experience of Sri Lanka, Oxford Development Studies, 25:1, 95-121, DOI:10.1080/13600819708424124

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  • Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1997 95

    Household Entitlements During Wartime: TheExperience of Sri Lanka

    MEGHAN O'SULLIVAN

    ABSTRACT Conventional ways of viewing conflict as destructive and irrational have con-strained the thinking of policy makers about the possibility of constructive intervention anddevelopment strategies during wartime. This paper, in looking at the experience of Sri Lanka,considers various policy choices, as well as their costs, open to some governments during timesof strife. Evidence from Sri Lanka refutes the notion that government services cannot beeffective in wartime while simultaneously drawing attention to the role that alternative societalstructures play in alleviating human costs. This paper demonstrates that a complex network ofproviders of market, public, and civil entitlements can evolve in certain wartime contexts andidentifies how the mode of warfare employed can create or destroy such a possibility. The studyconcludes that the opportunities for constructive policy making during wartime are greaterand the responsibilities of the agents at war broaderthan is commonly thought.

    1. Introduction

    A meaningful inquiry into the interrelationships between war and economic change, ordevelopment, would explore not only the mechanisms through which war inflicts costs,but also the ways that people have altered their behaviour in order to cope with thechanging realities of war. By identifying such transformations, we will be betterequipped to formulate policies most likely to limit the costs of war and, where possible,encourage continued development even during periods of conflict.

    Like other changes in economic incentives, war does not arrest all economictransactions, but alters the environment in which they take place. Some economicprocesses viable in peace-time are no longer profitable or even possible in a war contextbecause conflict changes the parameters of the marketplace. However, for the very samereason that some opportunities are destroyed, others are created. A macro-analysis ofa country at war would demonstrate this by revealing the varied trends behind theanticipated decline in production. Given the change in incentives created by the war,

    M. L. O'Sullivan, Brasenose College, Oxford OX1 4AJ, and University of Oxford, International DevelopmentCentre, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford OX1 3LA, UK.

    I am grateful for the help and information provided by many people whom I interviewed, including: Mr K.Ponnampalam, former Jaffna Government Agent; Mr Varadakumar of the Tamil Information Centre; Ms R.Sebastian, Journalist; Mr A. Arudpragasam, former head of the LTTE Industrial Development Organization; MsM. Dharmadasa of the American Embassy as well as others from Jaffna Teaching Hospital, Eastern University,University Grants Commission, Commissioner of Essential Services Offices, various political parties and NGOs,and private individuals wishing to remain unnamed. Without the assistance of these people, it would have beenimpossible to piece together the picture presented in Section 4.

    1360-0818/97/010095-27 1997 International Development Centre, Oxford

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  • 96 M. O'Sullivan

    certain sectors may be predictably more afflicted, while others may prosper, eventhough the net outcome may be a decline in GDP. Linkages between war and economicchange can also be analysed at the household level. There, we generally associateconflict situations with increased poverty and deteriorating physical conditions. Often,the reasons behind the worsened household situation are evident. However, as we areresolved to look at war not simply as a destructive force, we recognize that conflict mustchange peoples' strategies for survival, not simply render the old ones ineffective.

    This paper will focus on the impact of war at the household leveland therefore onhuman welfareby using a modified entitlements approach. Sen first wrote of "marketentitlements", the income secured by direct production which is used to purchasecommodities (Sen, 1981). Stewart, in developing the basic needs literature, added toSen's framework by introducing the concept of "public entitlements", the services suchas education, health care and food rations normally associated with governmentresponsibility (Stewart, 1985). This sum of purchasing power made possible by privateincomes earned on the market and social benefits is referred to as "household entitle-ments", the loss of which obviously leads to human costs and suffering. This paper willmaintain this framework with the addition of the concept of "civil entitlements", theassistance provided to the population by non-governmental institutions to supplementmarket and public entitlements. Public and civil entitlements, although dealt withseparately, together comprise "non-market entitlements". War, in influencing macroand meso situations, alters the way in which people procure both market and non-market entitlements. Of course, the most tragic case would be when each person failedto secure these entitlements at all. However, as this, is rarely the case, the mostimportant questions become how do people change their economic behaviour in orderto maintain market entitlements? What structures arise to meet human needs anddeliver non-market entitlements as old structures fail?

    An investigation of war and development would be incomplete without one furtheranalytical category. Development costs are those caused by destruction of existingcapital (physical as well as social), diminishing new investment, and destruction orreduction of human resources. These costs can be shaped by the macro and mesosituations, such as when funds needed to enlarge the army provokes the termination ofa public works project. Yet, at the same time, development costs, such as the disinte-gration of trust, can likewise shape the macro and meso environments to the extent thatthey erode the basis for many economic transactions and the development of institu-tions. During wartime, with the destruction of institutions and the shortened timehorizons for building reputations and economic relationships that insecurity brings,opportunistic behaviour can become more profitable. In these conditions, a society canmove from "a trust equilibrium" to "an opportunistic equilibrium".1 Needless to say,this bodes badly for society and the economy.2

    This paper uses the framework developed above to examine the experience of SriLanka, a country long engulfed in violent conflict. Although this study incorporatesboth quantitative and qualitative information, the usual problems of the counterfactualprevail. Comparing the situation in Sri Lanka before the conflict and over the war yearshas limitations, as "non-conflict" effects from Sri Lanka's changing economic circum-stances are incorporated in the trends, making it difficult to separate out the effects ofwar. Comparing Sri Lanka to other countries in the region can illuminate how SriLanka may have fared had it not been faced with conflict, but, again, one must beconscious of the many specific elements that affect country developments. Still, bylooking at absolute changes, inter-country comparisons and changes in trends, we hopeto obtain an indication of the impact of the war on Sri Lanka.

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  • Household Entitlements During Wartime 97

    The paper will identify notable ways in which Sri Lanka's experience has departedfrom conventional expectations about countries undergoing war. These departures maybe better interpreted when certain qualifications are made about the war in Sri Lanka.Due to the distribution of economic assets and the resilience of Sri Lanka's institutionsof government, the war, while unquestionably damaging the economy in some respects,has not led to a breakdown in growth. In fact, with the exception of 1987-89 whengrowth was slow (but still positive), Sri Lanka's growth rates exceeded 4% throughoutthe entire war period. Another distinguishing feature of the Sri Lankan war is its relativegeographic concentration: the violence has been largely confined to the north-east.3

    Therefore, when assessing human welfare in Sri Lanka, it is essential to consider theregion in the war zone (the north-east) separately from that outside military activities(the south-west). This distinction is important not only because the opportunities forsecuring entitlements differ tremendously in the two areas, but also because thecollection of information used in formulating "national" human indicators has almostwithout exception excluded households from the north-east since the mid-1980s. Aftera brief look at human welfare in the peaceful regions, this paper concentrates on thehousehold situation in the area of conflict.

    2. Overview of the Sri Lankan Conflict

    Since independence, the relationship between Sri Lanka's two main ethnic groups, theSinhalese (74% of the population) and the Sri Lankan Tamils (12%), has been marredby ethnic tension, sometimes flaring up into race riots and, more recently, into civil war.Strains between the communities can be traced to legislation favouring the Sinhalese inlinguistic, economic and political^spheres. The subsequent alienation of the Tamilsfrom the state eventually led their main political representatives, the Tamil UnitedLiberation Front (TULF), to advocate a separate Tamil state in the Northern andEastern Provinces in 1976.

    Earlier educational reforms discriminating against the Tamils and a stagnatingeconomy had ensured that by the late 1970s a large number of estranged, unemployedTamil youths were available to be targeted by militant separatist groups like theLiberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), particularly as the TULF's peacefultechniques proved largely ineffective in establishing a satisfactory measure of devolutionfor Tamil areas. This disaffection, coupled with an increasingly repressive army pres-ence in Tamil areas, erupted into violence with the killing of 13 Sinhalese soldiers inJaffna in July 1983. This event triggered week-long, island-wide, anti-Tamil riotsleaving hundreds of Tamils dead and tens of thousands homeless.

    Despite sporadic negotiations, violence, which eventually brought governmentforces into full conflict with Tamil militant groups, has continued to wrack the islanduntil the present day. A peace accord between the Sri Lankan and Indian governmentsas well as many Tamil militant groups (although not the LTTE) was signed in 1987.Yet it only brought more violence to the island, both in the form of sustained fightingbetween the LTTE and an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and an uprising led bya radical left wing Sinhalese organization, the JVP, opposing Indian involvement.

    After the IPKF departed from Sri Lanka in June 1990, something of a stalematedeveloped. The LTTE maintained exclusive control over much of the NorthernProvince, including Jaffna city, running a de facto state there. The government wasunable or unwilling to challenge this, and its response was limited to occasional shellingand an economic blockade of the Jaffna peninsula. Although the early 1990s were

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  • Table 1. Human indicators for countries at war O00Sri Lanka Afghanistan Ethiopia Mozambique Uganda

    Indicator 1975 1985 1991 1975 1985 1991 1980 1985 1990 1980 1985 1990 1980 1985 1990

    life

    expectancy" 65/68 68/72 69/74 47/45c 50/51 53/52 43 45 48 45 47 49 46 47 49

    Infantmortalityrateb 48 (1970) 34 (1980) 19 na na na 155 146 131 156 146 135 171 159 146

    Caloriesper capita 2020 2423 2286C 2010 1970 1710' 1777 1550 1658s 1797 1614 1632s 2098 2081 2013e

    Adultliteracyrate"(%) 86/69 91/82d 93/84e 19/4 30/5d 44/14* na na na 44/23 39/16 45/21h 65/40 57/29 62/35h

    Primaryschoolenrolmentratio* (%) 81/74 104/101 110/106f 41/8 27/13 32/17f 45/25 40/27 44/28 115/84 97/75 76/59 56/43 na 66/50

    r Secondary ,schoolenrolmentratio" (%) 47/49 60/66 71/77f 13/2 12/6 ll/6 f 11/6 16/11 17/12 8/3 10/4 7/4 , 7 / 3 na na

    Sources: Asian Development Bank (1994) and UNDP/World Bank (1992) African Development Indicators, Collier, P. (1995)."Male/female. ,bDeaths per 1000 live births."Refers to period centring on 1975.dRelated to years 1980-87.M990, not 1991.Related to years 1987-90.g1988, not 1990.h1989, not 1990.na, not available.

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  • Indicator 1975

    Sri Lanka

    1985

    Table 2.

    , 1990

    Human

    1975

    indicators

    M...

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