EU Ambassador for Sri Lanka Tung-Lai Margue and Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen
By Charumini de Silva
The Government yesterday said it plans to introduce a National Short and Medium Enterprise (SME) policy as well as a National SME Authority, as the SME sector is a driver of change for inclusive economic growth to increase youth employment and reduce poverty.
Addressing at the ‘Aadhayam 2017 National Trade Fair’ organised by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) inauguration, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said with the increasing trend of globalisation, the SME sector has become a driving force for growth and it has been identified as a strategic sector in policy objectives.
“Realising this trend, my ministry and the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) under us is introducing the National SME Policy and National SME Authority. I am pleased to say that the National SME Policy by our Ministry has now been completed and is ready to be published,” he added.
The Minister said that Cabinet approval was received for the SME Authority and that its structure is being worked out by his Ministry officials at present.Bathiudeen stressed that these institutions are being set up to facilitate and develop country’s SMEs and not to regulate them.
“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vision is to create a million jobs without taking funds from the general public. As a result, my Ministry and NEDA under me are now working to develop youth entrepreneurship. NEDA is creating Sri Lanka’s first ever SME incubator at a cost of Rs. 60 million,” he pointed out.
The first SME incubator, located in Makandura, is now almost ready. This incubator will educate many future entrepreneurs about creating their own businesses. Another key role of this incubator is technology transfer to new SMEs and entrepreneurs, he said.
Pointing out that there are over one million registered SMEs and micro, small and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) in Sri Lanka, he said they believe that SMEs are 75% of the total number of enterprises in the economy, providing 45% of the country’s employment and contributing to 52% of the gross domestic production (GDP).
While acknowledging that his ministry too plays a significant role to uplift SMEs, Bathiudeen appreciated the UNDP’s support given over the years to develop the SME sector in Sri Lanka.
“The UNDP has supported our National Design Centre (NCD) in training our traditional craftsmen from rural areas such as Mullaitivu, Mannar, Murunkan, Batticaloa, Ampara and Pottuvil,” he added.
The UNDP thus far has assisted NCD in design training of more than 4,000 craftsmen in diverse sectors as palmyrah fibre, rubber tailoring textiles, coir, red clay and screen printing.
In addition to the UNDP partnership, funds from Canada, Norway and the European Union also facilitated NDC training and entrepreneur access as well as product image management at the district level trade fairs in Jaffna and Batticaloa.
Bathidueen further said that the UNDP also supports NEDA. Accordingly, Economic Development Officers (EDOs) under NEDA were given capacity development for business development to support economic advisory service units in divisional levels with a view to improve economic productivity and growth in backward districts in the island.
With the necessary resources and capacity development assistance from international agencies, the Minister expressed his confidence that Sri Lanka would be able to achieve the UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) by 2030, which is also a part of the vision of the Unity Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The primary objective of the Aadhayam 2017 trade fair is to create a favourable platform for Sri Lankan SMEs to promote them further and enable them to connect with larger markets and expand business partnerships for national and international trade.
The three-day trade fair will showcase over 200 entrepreneurs, producer groups and organisations from ten selected districts of the country; namely, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Monaragala, Mullativu, Puttalam and Vavuniya.
Immediate rice imports from Pakistan and Myanmar
As much as 55,000 MT of rice has been made available to Sri Lanka immediately by Pakistan and Myanmar, the Industry and Commerce Ministry said in a statement.
The team of officials, who visited Pakistan and Myanmar earlier this month had tested samples of rice from both countries, and the consignment is expected to be a government-to-government transaction.
“After this successful tour, it is clear that there will be no more rice shortages in the domestic markets-or even any likelihood of it. Some elements in the market are trying to create an artificial shortage,” Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was quoted as saying in the statement.
The team of officials that flew out on 7 July was led by Industry and Commerce Ministry Secretary Chinthaka Lokuhetti, and two officials from the Finance Ministry and a food technologist from the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI).
According to an official who returned, Pakistan has agreed to supply 25,000 MT immediately. No final price has been quoted yet, but once the final price is agreed on, the rice will be shipped from Pakistan in early August.
Pakistan is also ready to supply an additional quantity by September.
Myanmar, too, is ready to supply another 30,000 MT immediately, though its final price has yet to be agreed on.
According to the officials who returned, the Sri Lankan team was given a very warm welcome at both destinations, and were then provided samples. The rice samples tested in Pakistan were already milled and is in good quality, according to the statement. Myanmar rice is of similarly high quality – only, it requires to be re-milled. However, Myanmar has expressed its willingness to mill them before shipping to Colombo. Lankan officials and food technologists also performed their own cooking tests on the samples given to them at both destinations and reported the quality and taste to be “very good.”
Sri Lankan officials also bargained for lower prices than the prices first quoted by both Pakistan and Myanmar officials. Officials of both countries agreed that such bargaining is acceptable and said they shall submit Sri Lanka’s bargained price quotes to their respective Cabinets (of Ministers) for approval, to complete the government-to-government sales.
Previously on 22 June, Minister Bathiudeen met Ambassador Designate of Thailand to Sri Lanka Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador of Indonesia to Sri Lanka Gusti Ngurah Ardiyasa and Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan Dr. Sarfraz Ahmad Khan Sipra at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to call for government-to-government rice supplies to Sri Lanka. All the Ambassadors present pledged immediate support to Sri Lanka’s efforts to procure the needed rice tranche.
The Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) under Minister Bathiudeen will undertake the local distribution work of imported rice.