The Minister, addressing a post budget forum in Colombo, said that today one of the biggest barriers to starting a business is the cost of capital. Many young entrepreneurs and SMEs have innovative business ideas but they find it difficult to make these viable at prevailing interest rates of 15% and above.
Samaraweera also said that in parallel, a SME guarantee fund is also being set up to enable SMEs with sound business plans to access credit without collateral. A Development Bank with an Exim window will provide development capital in the form of long term loans, project lending, and start up financing.
“These new initiatives will change the entire landscape of Sri Lankan enterprise” said the Finance Minister.
Referring to various suggestion made by different sectors of the economy on the budget the minister said that he was willing to listen to suggestions where there may be mistakes to correct. But the main theme of the budget- enterprise Sri Lanka and liberalizations are non-negotiable stressed the minister
The minister emphasized that citizens especially the youths of the country would be empowered to take their future into their own hands. Starting with this budget, we want to unlock the barriers to investment, trade, and enterprise. Access to land, labour, and affordable capital are the major impediments to the creation of new businesses and to expand existing ones.
A series of legislative changes will be implemented to address the difficulties in access to these factors of production. Archaic laws such as the Agricultural Lands Act and the Shop & Office Employees Act will be modernized to provide more flexibility to the market.
Samaraweera, explaining the reasons that led to present the enterprise Sri Lanka budget, said that today only 10% of around 300,000 Advanced Level students find a place in the State Universities each year. For too long we have devoted all our energies only to this 10%. In this Budget, we have focused on harnessing the talents of those who are left behind and creating opportunities for them.
The 13 years of education policy recognizes the varied skill of students and ensures the opportunity for students to stay on in school after Ordinary Levels. Students can take up market oriented skill development programmes including digital skills, creative skills, and technical skills.
We are working with the German and Swiss governments to expand the German Technical schools with 5 new schools around Sri Lanka. The skill development programmes will be conducted in close collaboration with the private sector to ensure relevance, he said.
The Minister expressed confidence that all efforts through his maiden budget will together position Sri Lanka on a high, sustainable, and inclusive growth path, leading to a prosperous nation in the near future. He also called upon the business community and all other stakeholders to extend their support to ensure that we make this budget work for all the people of Sri Lanka.