Entrepreneurs play key role in country’s growth trajectory, says Eran | Sunday Observer

Entrepreneurs play key role in country’s growth trajectory, says Eran

Youth instead of seeking the mediation of politicians will now be able to embark on a project of their own.
Youth instead of seeking the mediation of politicians will now be able to embark on a project of their own.

The dependence on the government especially on one person and one family mentality to obtain employment and other favours to scale up the social ladder will be brought to an end with the ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ program coming into fruition and create sustainable livelihood and income generation opportunities, State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne told journalists at the United National Party headquarters in Colombo last week.

He said it is time to put an end to the ‘dependence and begging’ attitude that pervaded in this country for decades where the government was made duty bound to provide jobs to youth who were either left out from university admission or school drop-outs.

Youth instead of seeking the mediation of politicians will now be able to embark on a project of their own to display their skills and excel in their professions even to reach global heights.

“Our youth have been following the practice of seeking political and bureaucratic favours for over 70 years and it is a total disgrace to the country which should have graduated to the next stage of economic growth by now. It is a shame to cow down to politicians whom the media has branded as possessing low educational qualifications,” Wickramaratne said.

The minister recalled the day when he came home first in a car and how the people in the neighborhood called him a businessman similar to the calibre of those who evade paying taxes and take people for a ride.

However, he said entrepreneurs have not been given the due place in this country and that’s why the present government stepped in to recognize the indispensable role played by entrepreneurs in the growth trajectory of a country. Entrepreneurs could solicit zero interest rate loans up to 15 lakhs while the government will bear the interest component.

The ‘Riyasaviya’ and Divisaviya’ are some of the concessionary interest payment loan schemes offered by the government to bring out the talents of youth into occupations that will brighten up their lives and the economy of the village.

“Youth who are taking the first steps into entrepreneurship unlike in the past need not have to panic over collateral that dissuaded them for years from venturing into an occupation of their own to make a living for their families. The bank and the government will share the risk of lending which deterred banks and other lending institutions to provide funds for self employment schemes,” the Minister said.

However, according to the minister the Sri Lanka has only around 2,30,000 entrepreneurs which is less than three percent of the total workforce of the country compared to Vietnam which has over 19 percent, Malaysia over 27 percent, Bangladesh 11 percent and China 7.5 percent of the workforce.

“The Enterprise Sri Lanka’ program is to help youth discover their innate skills which have enormous potential to create world renowned entrepreneurs.

The ‘Gamperaliya’ village re-awakening program goes hand in hand complementing the Enterprise Sri Lanka program,” Wickramaratne said.

He said the Gamperaliya program which kicked off in Kurunegala, Vavuniya and Mannar districts will be launched in other districts as well to support those have no helping hand to get their enterprises going.

Renovation of rural tanks, lakes, roads, schools, hospitals provision of sanitary facilities to schools and houses will be undertaken through the Gamperaliya program.

According to the Minister, over 50,000 families do not have permanent roofs while a large number of households are still left to live in the dark.

“We will provide electricity, playgrounds and sanitary faculties to all households and schools that lack these facilities,” Wickramaratne said.

The government through the ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ program proposed at the last budget aims at disbursing Rs. 60,000 million through state and private banks to potential entrepreneurs while allocating another Rs. 5 billion to reimburse the interest subsidy to banks. The program comprises 15 loan schemes covering agriculture, fisheries and SME enterprises.

Clarifying the clause on the import of waste to the country under the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) misconstrued by politicians, State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Harsha De Silva said the status quo on the import of waste under the SLSFTA will remain and that the notion of bringing down municipal waste, plastics, chemical, human waste and scrap mental is totally wrong. “Sri Lanka or any other country for that matter cannot control import and export through the imposition of duties.

Controlling imports could be done only through non tariff barriers (NTBs). We did not permit the import of coconuts under quarantine laws of the country.

Those who make a hue and cry now about importing waste under the Singapore free trade agreement did not do a damn to change the clause approved by the Cabinet under Mahinda Rajapaksa in the proposed Pakistan FTA,” the Minister said.

NTBs are trade barriers that restrict imports or exports of goods and services through mechanisms other than the imposition of tariffs. NTBs make the form of import quotas, subsidies, customs delays, technical barriers or other systems preventing or impeding trade.

According to the World Health Organisation NTBs comprise import licensing, rules for valuation of goods at customs, pre-shipment inspections, rules of origin (‘made in’).

He said neither Sri Lanka’s 20 million population waste could be exported nor Singapore’s five million peoples waste could be imported under the SLSFTA. The GATT 1994 agreement states specifically the rules prohibiting the import of solid waste.

When asked by journalists whether the Minister could give a guarantee that import of waste will not be permitted under the SLSFTA he said waste will not be imported to the country under any circumstance.

China banned the imports of waste early this year making other countries rethink about recycling. Before the ban, China was the first resting place for around half of the world’s metal, plastic and paper recyclables.

The SLSFTA was signed on January 23 this year after nearly 18 months of negotiations.

The agreement includes goods and services, investment, government procurement, e-commerce, intellectual property rights and telecommunication.

Trade between Sri Lanka and Singapore has crossed the US$ 1 billion mark. Sri Lanka was Singapore’s seventh trading partner couple of years ago with trade in goods to the tune of US$ 1.14 billion accounting for around 4 percent of the country’s total trade.

Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Minister Harin Fernando said the Sri Lankan rupee is gradually stabilizing as many other currencies and this would help ease the pressure on the foreign exchange.

“If you look at foreign currencies many have depreciated even more than the Sri Lankan rupee. The Thai Baath has weakened by 5.5 percent, the Sterling Pound by 7.7 percent and the Pakistan rupee by 10.77 percent.

We cannot say it has to be at this rate or that rate. Market conditions should decide it,” the Minister said.

The value of the Rupee has weakened by 5.44 percent against the US dollar during the first six months of this year.

The rupee which stood at 110.95 cents to the dollar in 2010 rose to Rs. 152.85 cents by 2017 and currently is at Rs. 161 compared to the Greenback. 

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