South Asia’s first SME issue and biz mood trackers unveiled in Colombo

Friday, 29 August 2014 00:59 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Lankan SMEs boosted by 2-pronged push
  • ‘Thanking TAF for first tracker and barometer’: Rishad
  • ‘Someone has to track SME issues’: Asia Foundation
  • ‘Excellent!’: FCCISL
The backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy received a fresh boost as a pioneering initiative to automate its issues and measure its pulse received prompt Government backing yesterday, in a first-for the entire South Asian region. “I am pleased that the first and pioneering online issue tracker and SME Business Barometer in Sri Lanka are under the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. They will focus on the issues of SMEs, which is our backbone,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing the kick-off event of the ‘Public Private Dialogue Issue Tracker Website’. The event was organised by the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) in collaboration with The Asia Foundation (TAF) last morning (28) at Galadari Hotel, Colombo. Joining this national initiative were The Asia Foundation Country Representative Dinesha Wickremanayake, NEDA Chairman N.M. Shaheid as well as many secretaries, additional secretaries and directors of several Government departments. “This issue tracker will focus on the problems and difficulties of SMEs. NEDA and I thank the Asia Foundation for extending its valuable support to develop this online system valued at more than $ 13,000. I have no doubts that Asia Foundation’s committed assistance to Sri Lanka’s SME sector as well as industries would continue,” said Bathiudeen. He added that NEDA is engaged in forming District Enterprise Forums (DEF) in all districts of the country and that the DEFs will be a source of input to this system which has been identified as an effective tool to find solutions to issues impacting on the growth and development of the Small and Medium Enterprises. The issue tracker is a tool developed by the Asia Foundation’s Local Economic Governance Program to track identified issues which impact the enabling environment for regional business. The issue tracker is designed to systematically track issues which emerge from various enterprise forums and working groups. The Business Environment Barometer will reflect the opinions of the micro, small and medium business mood, which is critical for development. This pioneering tracker is web-based, placed under NEDA and it will collect and list SME-related issues, track and provide acceptable solutions, display the progress of addressing of issues and the status to public and private stakeholders. It will become active for the public from mid-September. NEDA will soon commence a process of building awareness on the Issue Tracker among sub-national stakeholders and provide training and monitoring support to help consistent upload of data and tract progress of redress. Addressing the event, Wickremanayake said The Asia Foundation (TAF) has been working in Sri Lanka since 1954 and has been informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise. “Our programs aim to support local initiatives that seek to support critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century. We collaborate with both private and public partners to support leadership and institutional development.” Wickremanayake noted that TAF is actively supporting 16 strategic urban locations to improve local economic governance in Sri Lanka. “In many Asian countries, businesses often face opaque licensing procedures, volatile law and order conditions and endemic corruption. Small biz with limited access to capital carry a disproportionate amount of these burdens.” Since 2009, TAF has been using consultative tools such as the Public-Private Dialogue to bring businesses and government sectors to identify local impediments to economic recovery and development. “In Sri Lanka, in partnership with local level chambers, district chambers as well as national level chambers such as National Chamber of Commerce, we are facilitating private-public dialogue. Today NEDA is launching two innovative tools – The SME Issue Tracker and Business Environment Barometer – that will support efforts to improve the local biz environment in Sri Lanka,” said Wickremanayake. The Issue Tracker is a software designed to track measure and manage issues that are taken up at local, provincial and national level private public dialogues. Developed by the TAF’s Local Economic Governance Program and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia, it will track emerging issues by various enterprise forums, rural enterprise forums and working groups and has the potential to help the public and private sectors to work together for more rapid and effective reform. “It will facilitate all regional business chambers to collect and input data on issues impacting micro, small and medium enterprises and to track them based on the status of redress. It’s also a repository to share experiences and insights,” added Wickremanayake. The Business Environment Barometer will collect, organise, analyse and report experiences from a carefully-selected sample of entrepreneurs from the SME and informal sectors and will periodically present views and experiences of entrepreneurs and micro biz operating in formal and informal sectors on a set of predetermined indicators that reflect the status of biz at sub national level. “Given the importance of SMEs to Sri Lanka’s economy, someone has to track their issues. The Issue Tracker system will track whether their logged issues have been solved, if not why and who is responsible to solve it. This is almost a first in the entire South Asian region. We’ve been working on this for almost three years since we have to make it fit to Sri Lankan SMEs,” said Wickremanayake. Shaheid addressing the event said this was an important development for Sri Lanka’s SME sector from the time of their inception. “NEDA itself has been struggling to identify issues and problems faced by SMEs – a very serious issue for us. We started with District Enterprise Forums under the Divisional Secretary and invited various stakeholders to find solutions. These were very successful, which led to Regional Enterprise Forums. NEDA is determined to take this to all districts from the current 14 districts and this initiative will begin to log for better processing of them. TAF is an ideal partner for NEDA to address this critical SME issue.” The Lankan private sector immediately praised the new initiative. “It’s an excellent move,” said a pleased Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka Secretary General Ajith D. Perera, who was taking part at the event. “In Sri Lanka’s context, 65% of its GDP comes from the SME sector. FCCISL’s main concern is the development of the regional chambers. We think therefore this is a forward-looking step to develop the regional SMEs as well. This will definitely help us to understand the industry.”