State Minister of Finance and Mass Media Eran Wickramaratne said Sri Lanka has a deeply entrenched entitlement culture which works against the entrepreneurial culture. He said rationale for introducing Rs 60 billion Enterprise Sri Lanka program was to challenge that entitlement culture in Sri Lanka.
He was speaking at a pre-budget seminar organised by Business Economics Faculty of University of Jayewardenepura under the theme, ‘Striving for Export Competitiveness’. The event was held at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute in Colombo on Monday.
Insisting the need to create a new breed of entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, Minister said Sri Lanka accounts for mere two percent or 230,000 entrepreneurs, out of the total working population where as total number of entrepreneurs in Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and China accounts for 19 percent, 22 percent, 11 percent and 7.5 percent respectively, compared to their total working population.
He said further the speedy implementation of public sector reforms is vital to take the country to the next level. In addition he said it is also pertinent to take necessary steps to iron out prevalent systematic corruption at all levels of the public sector.
“The present system is bringing some level of accountability, but we need to see that extend a lot more for the public sector as a whole, not only for politicians,” he said.On the revenue generation front, 80 percent of all the revenue in Sri Lanka comes from three institutions which include Inland Revenue Department, Sri Lanka Customs and Department of Excise.
“Other 20 percent comes from another 300 institutions. We have to get these institutions working in the most efficient way. There are no questions about it. Otherwise we can’t run this country,” he said.“Service levels at these institutions are unacceptable. We believe it is the customer who must speak for the service. We have to follow a customer centric focus when it comes to delivering government services to the general public,” he said.
Speaking on existing and proposed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), he said FTAs are basically creating an environment for Sri Lanka to establish much needed business links with the rest of the world.The Minister however accepted that Sri Lanka is generally weak on the implementation part of FTAs.He said the Sri Lanka Pakistan FTA hasn’t really materialized on the ground.“Despite the fact that many people criticize the Indo –Lanka FTA, Sri Lanka has benefitted a lot under this FTA,” he said