- ‘New Development Bank coming, giving Rs. 10 b for startups, SMEs’ – PM Wickremesinghe
- Says in talks with India for a major development project for North
- ‘A big thank you to our PM from SL entrepreneurs and Northern people’ – Rishad
Sri Lanka is to unleash one of the largest ever support initiatives for its start-ups and entrepreneurs. The Government is negotiating with India for a major development project for Northern Province ‘in the scale of historic Mahaweli project’. “We will start a new Development Bank. In its first round of financing, it will give Rs. 10 billion in loans to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs,” said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on 21 July in Jaffna.
PM Wickremesinghe was addressing the Northern Entrepreneur Awards 2017 organised by Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen through his Ministry’s National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) in association with Yalpanam Chamber of Commerce, in Jaffna. Joining the session with Minister Bathiudeen were Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, State Minister of Finance Eran Wickremeratne, Northern Province Chief Minister CV Vigneshwaran, Chairman of NEDA D. Bogollagama and Chairman of Yaalpanam Chamber of Commerce K. Vignesh.
“I thank and praise Minister Bathiudeen for organising an event of this nature which is a great stimuli for the striving Northern entrepreneurs. He has launched this effort after carefully identifying suitable entrepreneurs here. As an MP representing the North, he is making a great effort for the Northern people. Not only for the Northern entrepreneurs, he and his Ministry assist seven entrepreneurs in the rest of the country,” said PM Wickremesinghe.
He added: “There was a strong base of entrepreneurship during pre-war times in the North, which the prolonged war destroyed. Some Northern entrepreneurs switched to Colombo while others migrated. Now we should rebuild the economy and speed up growth here, bringing north in par with the rest – this is the new challenge faced by north of Vavuniya today. We need to reinstate yester-year’s Northern glory. Enterprise Sri Lanka is one of the key programs helping Sri Lankan entrepreneurs.
“We conditionally subsidise entrepreneurs. For some we won’t even charge loan interest since start-up process is our priority. This rule is for all scales of entrepreneurs – small, medium and large. The Finance Minister will instruct the state banks to release funds. Your wellbeing is North’s wellbeing. If you need more financing, we shall provide them – please continue your businesses. Gamperaliya program also helps SMEs. Village infrastructure development program also on. SMEs can be developed by small and regional people. “Infrastructure development can be given to local contractors, without large companies resulting in local village liquidity. Industry ministry programs too are there for villages. We will start a new Development Bank. In its first round of financing, it will give Rs. 10 billion in loans to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs. Capital for development also will be given. Northern entrepreneurs will get larger tax relief. Tax relief for Capital expenditure is 200% at present but it will be increased to 300%. If your new industry is an industry targeting exports, then the tax is 14% only. Minister Bathiudeen is in negotiations for a new Industrial zone for north.
“Fishery can also be developed for exports. Northern provincial tourism too can be developed including a yachting services for islands. Mannar region can be developed for tourism. We are in talks with India for Northern development, in the next 10 years. The 1978 Mahaweli project developed the South – we need to bring a similar large scale project to develop the north as well.”
Northern Entrepreneur Awards series by the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Yalpanam with NEDA, since its commencement in 2014 has now become a leading networking platform for Northern start-ups and SMEs. “As the Minister of SMEs, I thank PM Wickremesinghe for the great initiatives announced for our startups, SMEs today. As a representative from North, also I thank him for the incentives announced for the Northern entrepreneurs. This series of awards are in Micro Small Medium and Large categories. We commenced this series in 2014 and we will deliver awards across all nine provinces of the country in future,” said Minister Bathiudeen.
He added: “The poverty levels of the Province have declined from 30% in war times to around 10% at present. Therefore this is the correct time for SME revival in this province and PM Wicremesinghe has exactly identified what the Northern entrepreneurs need. On behalf of all entrepreneurs, I extend a big thank you, to PM Wickremesinghe and also on behalf of Northern people, I thank him for pursuing negotiations with India to develop this Province further.” Sri Lanka has more than one million registered SMEs, each employing three persons on average. Taken together with other micro enterprises and SMEs that are not registered, the sector’s presence is weightier with a sizeable contribution to the economy – an estimated 52% of GDP. According to the Yalpanam Chamber, Northern Province hosts approximately 2000 SMEs.