Vital health indicators in Sri Lanka’s plantation sector have improved significantly since privatisation, a key industry apex body says.

Vital health indicators in Sri Lanka’s plantation sector have improved significantly since privatisation and the establishment of the Plantation Housing and Social Welfare Trust (PHSWT) in 1992, an industry apex body said this week.

Vital health indicators in Sri Lanka’s plantation sector have improved significantly since privatisation and the establishment of the Plantation Housing and Social Welfare Trust (PHSWT) in 1992, an industry apex body said this week. The work of the Trust, now known as the Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT) which will celebrate its 12 anniversary shortly, had brought several key indicators in the plantations on par or above national averages, the Planters’ Association of Ceylon said.

The Association, which represents the 23 plantation companies, said it was pleased to report that by the end of last year, the infant mortality rate (IMR), neo-natal mortality rate (NMR), the incidence of low birth weight (LBW) and the percentage of institutional births (IB) had all recorded impressive improvements in the plantation sector.

Quoting statistics compiled by the PHDT, whose work covered a population of 893,000 in 2003, the Association said the infant mortality rate had dropped from 27.9 per 1000 live births in 1992 to 13.8 last year, an improvement of more than 50 per cent.

The neo- natal mortality rate (deaths in the first 28 days of life) had improved from 20.7 per 1000 live births to 9.5 in the same period, which compares well with the last reported national figure of 12.8 in 1997.

The overall percentage of low birth weight for estates in 2003 was 12 per cent as against the national figure of 17.1 per cent in 2002.

The incidence of LBW was 19.4 in 1992 when the estates were privatized.

Additionally, institutional births in the estate sector had increased to 98.3 per cent in 2003 from 85.5 per cent in 1992, reflecting a very positive trend, the Association said.

Paying tribute to the commitment of the Plantation Human Development Trust and results achieved, Planters’ Association Secretary General Malin Goonetileke said: “These social indicators also reflect the investments made by the plantation companies in social welfare, following wide acknowledgement that a content, motivated work force will help increase productivity and profitability of the estates.”

He disclosed that total investment on social welfare initiatives in the plantations since 1992 has now reached Rs. 2.63 bn.

These investments have been channeled in to new and/or upgraded housing projects, water supply and sanitation schemes, hospitals and community centres, childcare facilities, road and transport infrastructure, health programmes and community mobilization initiatives.

“Privatisation has clearly resulted in a mind-set change in the way management looks at labour,” Goonetileke added. “Companies rank labour as one of their most valuable assets, and inputs into human resources development and worker welfare are now at an unprecedented high.”

A spokesman for the Plantation Human Development Trust said the financial and moral support of the estate managements had been a significant supplement to the donor funds and initiatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the plantation sector.

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