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POSTED AT 03:19 PM 25-02-2019

Eran lauds Bohras’ contribution to entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka

Eran Wickramaratne speaks at the Bohra Business Expo 2019

State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne has lauded the Bohra community’s leadership in the development of entrepreneurship in the island nation.

Inaugurating the Bohra Business Expo 2019 at Hotel Sapphire here on Saturday, the banker turned political leader said that the Bohras have been a ‘big catalyst’ in the development of entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka.

Wickramaratne said that entrepreneurship is the crying need of the hour given the parlous state of Sri Lanka’s finances, and the sharp drop in the share of revenue in the country’s GDP.

The economic policies of successive Sri Lankan governments have not fostered entrepreneurship, the minister said. As a result, the Government’s revenue has dwindled in relation to the GDP. With lower revenue, governments have not been able to deliver the services they are expected to deliver.

In this respect, Sri Lanka has been lagging behind other developing countries in Asia such as Vietnam and Thailand,he pointed out.

“At the end of the 1970s, the Government’s revenue was 19% of the GDP, which might be considered adequate. But by 2014,it had come down to 11%.”

“Exports were 30% of the GDP, but they now account for a mere 14%. Compare this with Vietnam, where exports’ contribution to the GDP is 100%.”

“In Sri Lanka, entrepreneurs constitute only 2.8% of the working population (those between the ages of 18 and 64). Butin Vietnam entrepreneurs account for 19.6%of the working population. In Thailand the figure is 27%; in Bangladesh it is 11.6%; and in China 7.5%. But in Sri Lanka, entrepreneurs are less than 3% of the working population,” the Minister said.

Lack of entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka has led to two deleterious effects Wickramaratne pointed out: Firstly, the precipitous fall in Government revenue has led to an inability to provide basic goods and services to the people. Secondly, Government has had to borrow money from abroad in dollars at high rates of interest.

“Till the 1980s, 98.4 % of the loans secured by Sri Lanka were on concessionary terms. But now, the figure has come down to 50%,”Wickramaratne pointed out.

“Therefore, we in Sri Lanka have to generate revenues and increase revenue. This calls for the development of entrepreneurship. It is for this reason that the present government launched the Enterprise Sri Lanka program in September 2018 to produce 100,000 entrepreneurs by giving them loans through banks at subsidised interest,” the Minister said.

The present government’s policy is to create a new ‘macro-space’ for the growth of entrepreneurship, he added.

Earlier, giving a brief introduction to the Bohra Business Expo 2019, Moiz Mustafa said that the current expo is the third in the series organised to promote small and medium enterprises among the Bohras, a business community which came to Sri Lanka in the 18th Century from Gujarat in India.

Since then, the community has been trading and living in harmony with other communities in the island. 

The basic aim of Bohra Business Expo 2019 is to empower young Bohras, including women, through the promotion of an independent entrepreneurial spirit among them. Mustafa urged the Government to draw up schemes to promote small and medium enterprises.

The Bohra Business Expo 2019, attracted a number of entrepreneurs who displayed and sold their products, much of which were homemade. In the lead were women entrepreneurs. Their products ranged from food items to homemade cosmetics using natural ingredients.

Arwa Mohammed of ‘Tresor’ displayed an array of silver and stone jewellery designed and made by her. Arwa is a qualified dentist, but designing and making jewellery is both her hobby and business. Jumana and Zainab displayed ‘fresh, handmade, all natural’ bath and body products. They said that they could also meet an individual customer’s needs.

Fareeda Mu.Mansoorally, a caterer, was selling mouth-watering Bohra dishes. Ali Asghar A. Mohammedally’s outlet ‘Frutti Natural’ made it a point to tell the visitors how they use only the finest and purest of natural ingredients to make their wide range of ice creams and sherbets. “The flavour is in the fruit. It’s uniquely delicious!” they said.

Munira and Kubra are specialists in Mehendi, a kind of body art which is an essential part of bridal make up in Hindu and Muslim weddings in India and Pakistan.

Rashida-S.N.Hussain, offered a totally different service. She is an ‘Educational Consultant and a Life Skill Coach’. With an Indian and American qualification, Rashida helps clients improve their prospects in life. “We help clients take the next step forward,” she explains. Clients could either join groups or seek individual attention, she added.

The predominance women in the Expo could not be missed. That the Bohra community isprogressive and liberal, and ensures gender equality, was evident in the way the women led the way at the Expo, conducted themselves at the stalls and spoke to the visitors in Queen’s English.

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