"In 2005, President Mahinda Rajapaksa strategized a document which he was offering to the country as the way forward called Mahinda Chinthana in which he spelt out the country's agricultural policy which took care of all the aspects connected to agriculture. Often people use to think of agriculture as being a 'farmer' who has a land to cultivate and yielding a harvest. But the President addressed the entire gamut of services as well as other ingredients that are connected to agriculture. Then it became a wholesome strategy that allowed the sector to move forward. I think a similar strategy must be adopted with regard to financial inclusion as well; not just a haphazard ad hoc approach, but a holistic approach, which takes care of all the necessities and ingredients that go into the financial inclusion," Cabraal said.
The Governor made these remarks at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka – Commonwealth Secretariat Asia Conference on 'Financial Inclusion and Financial Literacy' held at the Centre for Banking Studies, Rajagiriya yesterday.
Cabraal pointed out that skills development was not only limited to the ability to run a business, but also other skills like human resources, planning, IT and financial.
"Those are soft skills that are needed for any successful business," he added.
"Productivity improvement is also important. People will tell you that the productivity focus is limited. As a result very little attention is given to SMEs and there is no search for alternative methods to improve the productivity of these small businesses. Hence, financial inclusion is difficult because people find it difficult to lend money to SMEs. Financial management is also vital in doing business. Furthermore with globalization, SMEs need to know not only technological improvements in general but also developments that are taking place in a particular industry," he added.
Sharing his experience with the farmers, the Governor said, "I have spoken to thousands of farmers who told me that when the farmers need money at the time they prepare the land for cultivation, the banks are keen towards this so-called financial inclusion and come up with lofty ideas; but at the end of the day when the need arises, the banks disappoint them."
"Money has to be given at the right time at the right place. So, these are the issues that banks as well as the financial institutions will have to work on, if they want to be successful. The banks must help them to prepare business plans in order to take SMEs to the next level for development, otherwise they will continue to be on a hand-to-mouth existence."
Elaborating further he said, "We must also try to reduce the red tape. In Sri Lanka, we are working out methods that will make doing business easier. In some countries by the time you get approval to do business, you have exhausted yourself and you have no time to do business. That needs to be changed. If you can ensure that the red tape is reduced people can get together and do their businesses."
"In my view if you want to really address these issues the society must also learn to look at business in a different way. You have to foresee business and understand what a business is. Financial inclusion can happen only if there is business acumen. Business acumen can also be taught, can also be transmitted and business schools do that. So, I think it is necessary to extend financial inclusion to also embrace business achievements. I think we need to change our attitudes, not only from a micro level; but from the macro perspective," the Governor noted.