June 08, Colombo: Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera says the government expects to create 100,000 new entrepreneurs by the year 2020 and the Enterprise Sri Lanka program consisting of 16 loan schemes has been prepared to achieve the goal.
Minister Samaraweera made this statement while participating in an event held at Temple Trees today (08) to educate representatives of state banks on the Enterprise Sri Lanka program, one of the main proposals made in the 2018 budget to create entrepreneurs.
Speaking further the Minister said the 2018 budget was presented under the theme "Enterprise Sri Lanka, Blue Green Economy".
"Confucius said it is more worth to give a fishing rod rather than a fish to a hungry person. Therefore, we are ready to bring our ancestors 'entrepreneurial capability to our present day, giving life to the country's historical dignity. In fact we had more talent in entrepreneurship than in being an agriculture-based country. Sri Lanka was the largest trade hub between East Africa and China, between Middle East Arabia and China, and between Europe and China. Chinese, Roman, Egyptian and Persian coins have been found in Sri Lanka. These were indications of Sri Lanka's trade relations with those powerful countries in the ancient times," the Minister explained.
"We must revive the capabilities in our genes," Minister Samaraweera stressed.
"After Independence, we were at the front as a developing country. On our freedom, the London Times said that Sri Lanka would become Swaziland of Asia. But we divided and separated. We were isolated from the World. Even though we have some economic growth, we are still behind even in our region. We in our budget said that Sri Lanka will become a paradise of entrepreneurs because of our past abilities."
"In order to achieve our goal, we need to give all Sri Lankans an opportunity to become shareholders of the Enterprise Sri Lanka program. A fair and equitable environment conducive to entrepreneurship should be created. We must give the opportunity to the project report for the enterprise. But today if there is no guarantor acceptable to a bank, the entrepreneurs are turned away."
"There are many shortcomings in our country's education system. Only a small number of about 25,000 enter the university. Others receive private education. Some others go abroad. But around 150,000 people with special skills spend time hopelessly with no job. This is the group gets directed towards extremist politics, drugs and illegal activities. A group of people who can give great strength to the development of the country, become lost," the Minister noted.
"Most of the students come to the gates of the universities and turn back not because of their fault but because we were unable to provide enough university facilities. We also need to set aside 6% of GDP for education. Our objective is to reach that level from the current 3% by the year 2020. We are also ready to introduce the 13 years of compulsory education."
"Our responsibility is to identify the persons who have entrepreneurial skills not only among the university graduates but also from those who passed GCE O/L and A/L examinations. We have to set up a system for those who did not get into the universities, not to become hopeless and to contribute to the country's development. The Enterprise Sri Lanka program is for that initiative," he said.
The Minister said the Enterprise Sri Lanka Program will be launched under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Bandaranayke International Conference Hall on the 21st of this month.
Under the program, 16 loan schemes will be commenced. Currently, over 100 lending schemes implemented through banks are subject to modernization. The amount allocated for this program is Rs 5250 million.
The Minister requested the representatives of the state banks to give the opportunity to the new entrepreneurs.
"We urge your bank officers to give a special place to these new entrepreneurs. When a new person comes to the bank what's considered is whether the person is a customer, whether they have an account? These new entrepreneurs may not have any experience with a bank. If they were ignored they may go back in disappointment. Therefore a special window for the Enterprise Sri Lanka Program should be set up at all branches of People's Bank, Bank of Ceylon and Regional Development Bank. People who have the knowledge of the loan system should be used to man these windows," Minister Samaraweera further explained.
"Our aim is to create at least 100,000 new entrepreneurs within the next two years not just from the cities but also from all parts of the country."
Minister Samaraweera said special attention has been paid to female entrepreneurs. He noted that women are often given sewing machines for self-employment. "But women have the same capability as the men. In fact they work with more responsibility than men. Whenever possible, I have appointed women to head some institutions. Women have been appointed to lead the Sri Lanka Customs, Department of Excise and other three institutions in the Ministry of Media.
The Minister explained under the program, for businesses with more than ten people, and if 50 percent of that are women, then a further 10 percent will be added to the concession on interest rates. The disabled will also receive the same concession.
"This is expected to bring about a huge change in our economy within a short period of time," the Minister noted.
"Simply stated, everyone who is here is the frontrunner taking the Enterprise Sri Lanka program to the people," Minister of Finance said.
State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne, Minister of Public Enterprise and Kandy City Development Lakshman Kiriella, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga and bank representatives from all parts of the country participated in this event.