Chamber calls for SME-friendly Govt. policies | Sunday Observer

Chamber calls for SME-friendly Govt. policies

 Rohan de Silva
Rohan de Silva

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) should innovate and think out of the box to survive and be sustainable in the post-pandemic economy, said President, Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries (SLCSMI), Rohan de Silva.

“Some of our members have been asking what the government is going to do about us? My response to them is that they have to work  hard instead of depending on others to survive,” de Silva said.

The chamber revised its motto to ‘Be Lankan; Buy Lankan’ to encourage local production and consumption. However, the Chamber chief points out two determinant factors to yield  results under the new slogan.

“Supporting local industries is one such determinant to boost the performance of SMEs.  Of course, having said that there are certain reservations. For instance, local industries should produce goods to international standards,” he said.

The second factor is the adaptation of SME-friendly government policies. “The government knows that huge amounts of foreign exchange is spent on unnecessary imports. Even though it is a tough task, we should support SMEs to be quality-oriented and to assist in stopping the drain of foreign exchange,” de Silva said. 

World Bank statistics show that 90 percent of world businesses are SMEs and 50 percent of the entire global workforce relies on them.

However, SMEs are the worst-hit due to the global pandemic, consequently crippling the entire global economy. As narrated by many international agencies and institutions, the global economy is experiencing its darkest hour in recent history.

In Sri Lanka, the situation is fairly similar as the lion’s share (70%) of the GDP comes from SMEs.

The SLCSMI conducted a webinar recently to share new knowledge, where they focused on developing many areas including value addition and packaging which would help support local industries to focus more on producing quality products.

Seeing consumer behaviour and barriers to the smooth functioning of international trade, many Sri Lankan experts expected a resurgence of the 1970-77 era, where local production was encouraged by the State by banning most imports. However, the SLCSMI president does not believe in a complete ban on imports and 100% local production.

“I do not think that we will go back to Mrs Bandaranaike’s era. They stopped all imports and began cultivating aggressively. But I feel  President Gotabaya Rajapaksa wants to do something for the country,” he said, adding that several industries had already been hit even  before the Covid-19 due to political instability since October 2018.  “As a result of the political instability, economic growth declined. But, if you can stay positive it is not impossible to overcome these challenges. If you look at Brandix, they started manufacturing face masks. I think they have delivered about 200 million masks,” he said.