Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries (SLCSMI) President Rohan de Silva lamented that the micro, small and medium enterprises sector is the worst hit due to the 21 April Easter Sunday terror attacks.
He made this observation at a forum of senior representatives from the trade and industrial chambers from Apparel Exporters, Shippers Associations, Export Development Board, Customs Department officers, and various other trade organisations recently to discuss and recommend to the authorities the remedial measures regarding the ill effects of the Easter Sunday tragedy. This meeting was a result of the initiative taken by Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade (MODSIT) Malik Samaraweera, to request the Chamber members to build confidence and support among Sri Lanka’s international business partners and to help the economy bounce back with resilience and sustainability.
While security measures and preventive steps were discussed and being implemented by the Govt. to ensure fast movement of imports and exports of safe cargo, and to track dangerous drugs and substances from the sea ports and the airports, the financial repercussions that resulted due to the loss in production in the industries, especially in the MSMEs, were colossal, mainly due to the five-hourly power cuts effected in April till the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the intervening holidays usually granted to the employees, and finally, the cruel bomb blasts that followed on 21 April.
The latter part of April was a mere passing of time with island-wide curfews and employees not reporting to work due to lack of transport, fear psychosis, and other issues that prevailed at that time.
The SLCSMI is appealing to the Govt. to intervene in order to uplift the falling industries, i.e. the micro, small and medium industries, that contribute 70% towards the national GDP and also account for nearly 40% of employment. de Silva said that even major industries, such as the hotels sector, garment sector and other related sectors, depend on these SMEs directly or indirectly.
The Chamber has put forwarded the following proposals and relief measures which were suggested to the Govt. as immediate solutions that could resuscitate these industries.
* Introduce a credit guarantee scheme or relax the security requirements (co-lateral)
* Convert existing loan facilities taken from banks to Enterprise Sri Lanka Loan Scheme
* Extend the concessions that are granted to the tourism industry to these sectors of industry at least for a limited 6-12 months grace period
* The Govt. to intervene in facilitating the recommended loan schemes for the SMEs as some SMEs are unable to bargain their own dues – a result of lack of knowledge and strength
* Relax the payment dates of utility bills, such as telephone bills, mobile telephone bills, electricity, water, etc., for SMEs.
* Arrangements to make available security equipment on rent and at affordable prices to SMEs
* Arrange seminars/conferences and counselling sessions to enlighten and educate industrialists as a measure of confidence building and encouragement to continue with their industries/businesses
de Silva also requests the relevant authorities to arrange these sessions island-wide to win the confidence of the entrepreneurs, especially SME’s.