Sri Lankan government’s most ambitious, Rs. 60 billion ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka initiative’, an ideal platform to create an enabling environment with fair and equal opportunities for the budding local entrepreneurs to contribute to the country’s development has received an overwhelming response from aspiring entrepreneurs across the country since its launch in last month.
Having understood the need of a new breed of young entrepreneurs, the government has put in place the necessary financial framework to support them by introducing16 concessionary loans which include11 interest subsidy loan schemes, three refinancing loan schemes inclusive of two financial and non-financial schemes.
he program has been implemented by the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media in association with the state and private sector banks, foreign financial institutions and the other participatory institutes.The primary objective of the project is to create a minimum of 100,000 entrepreneurs by 2020 through these concessional loan schemes. The especial feature of the project is that the government has focused on empowering female entrepreneurs by providing additional incentives and with that, the government expects a transformational change in the economy in years ahead.
Minister of Finance and Mass Media, Mangala Samaraweera recently said that as per the government’s ‘2025 Vision’ plan, the government believes that engaging with aspiring entrepreneurs to provide better access to market information, necessary skills and a conducive environment for new enterprises is the best way forward to achieve inclusive and sustainable development.
“Our responsibility is to identify the persons who have entrepreneurial skills, support them in developing their entrepreneurial skills thus providing them with the ability to positively contribute towards the economy. The Enterprise Sri Lanka program is all about that”, the Minister said.Minister Samaraweera also said that the government has already allocated a sum of Rs 5.25 billion to this end.
Meanwhile, Senior Deputy General Manager (Business Banking) at People’s Bank Rasitha Gunawardana said that People’s bank has given Rs 3.5 billion in funding for 2,000 selected applicants since last year.“Another 500 selected applications are pending for loan approval. The bank is active in 12 loan schemes at the moment.” Gunawardana said.
“This particular project was introduced in last year budget. Soon after the budget, we started this loan scheme. By this time, we have worked on this for almost one year. The government thought the banking sector progress its own is not satisfactory. So, the government wanted to give proper publicity to this project by launching it in July, this year.”
The bank has already established a separate window for Enterprise Sri Lanka program at its all the branches across the country and is handled by an employee who has the knowledge of the loan system. Gunawardana said.“The government believes that the private sector is the engine of the growth and entrepreneurship skills are critical to create the jobs of the future,” he said.
“The basic idea is to give a helping hand to up and coming entrepreneurs by providing necessary funding for their projects. The government recently came up with the idea that 60 % of our funding should be given to new entrepreneurs while only 40 should be given to established entrepreneurs in the country for their enhancement.”
In the meantime, National Savings Bank sources told Daily News Business that it has received 11,000 loan applications under the Sonduru Piyasa loan scheme, of which 11,000 applications, the bank has given over Rs 275 million in funding for 1,400 applicants so far.
In addition, it has received close to 100 loan applications so far for Rivi Bala Savi loan scheme.The bank is currently conducting a series of programs to create awareness among the general public on the Enterprise Sri Lanka program particularly in Ratnapura, Galle, Kandy, Kurunagala, Jaffna, Matara and Hambantota and etc.
Regional Development Bank (RDB), another partnering bank of the project said that its Ran Aswenna loan scheme has received the highest number of applications, followed by Govi Nawoda scheme.Accordingly, RDB has disbursed over Rs 810 million in funding under Ran Aswenna and Rs 77 million for 200 selected applicants under Govi Nawoda program so far.Furthermore, RDB is currently looking at the possibility of introducing Arambuma, Riya Shakthi and Maadya Aruna loan schemes in the near future.To take the message of Enterprise Sri Lanka program, particularly to the rural masses, RDB has established a separate window at its all the branches, across the country.
State Minister of Finance, Eran Wickramaratne speaking on Enterprise Sri Lanka program said that total entrepreneurs accounts for mere 2% or 230,000 of the working population in Sri Lanka where as total entrepreneurs in Thailand and China accounts for 20% and 7.5% respectively, in comparison to their total population.
“Entrepreneurship is in our DNA. It’s a well known fact that we had such a strong entrepreneurship culture in Sri Lanka. During the pre and post colonial period, Sri Lanka’s had maintained robust global trade and entrepreneurial engagement with the rest of the world. But it is really disappointing that things have changed drastically due to various circumstances.” He said, “We believe that development activities should not be implemented on the pretext of achieving petty political mileage. The development has no colour or party politics.”