Sri Lanka has a deeply entrenched entitlement culture which works against the entrepreneurial culture, State Minister of Finance and Mass Media Eran Wickramaratne said at the pre-budget seminar under the theme’ Striving for Export Competitiveness” organised by the Business Economics Faculty of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura held at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute in Colombo last week.
“The rationale behind the introduction of the Rs 60 billion Enterprise Sri Lanka program was to challenge that entitlement culture in Sri Lanka. We have to be competitive in terms of price and quality. We have gone up in the value chain and competition is not a new thing for our entrepreneurs,” he said.
Stressing the need to create a new breed of entrepreneurs in the country, the Minister said that Sri Lanka accounts for a mere two percent or 230,000 entrepreneurs, out of the total working population whereas the total number of entrepreneurs in Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and China account for 19 percent, 22 percent, 11 percent and 7.5 percent respectively compared to the working population in these countries.
“The speedy implementation of public sector reforms is vital to take the country to the next level. In addition, it is also pertinent to take necessary steps to iron out prevalent systematic corruption at all levels of the public sector,” he said.
“The present system is bringing some level of accountability, but we need to see that extend alot 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. “ The other 20 percent comes from another 300 institutions. We have to get these institutions working in the most efficient manner. There are no questions about it.
Otherwise we cannot run this country. 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 approach when it comes to delivering government services to the general public,” he said.
Emphasising on the need for free trade agreements (FTAs), the Minister said that the effectiveness of FTAs is important for the country to gain far reaching benefits. However, he noted that there should be mechanism, energy, machinery and commitment to enforce FTAs while accepting that Sri Lanka is generally weak on the implementation part of FTAs.
The FTAs are basically creating an environment for Sri Lanka to establish much needed business links with the rest of the world.The Pakistan and Sri Lanka FTA hasn’t really materialised at present and much work needs to be done in this regard. Despite the fact that many people criticise the Indo-Sri Lanka FTA, Sri Lanka has benefitted a lot under this FTA, he said.