SME credit scheme: Micro sector requests more time

Microenterprises and their representative chambers have formally requested the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to extend the deadline to apply for the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) credit support scheme that expired on 10 February this year.

The request comes after a second circular issued by the CBSL removed the minimum annual turnover requirement of Rs. 16 million, thereby blocking microenterprises from being eligible for this scheme.
Following continuous requests from SMEs, for whom this scheme was initially announced, the Central Bank revised the initial deadline of 31 January by extending it by further 10 days and issued a revised circular in this regard.

The revised circular came out with a number of changes from the initial circular issued on 13 January 2020. The main and most important change was that the SMEs in the Non-Performing Loan (NPL) category as at 31 December 2019 were not required to have a minimum annual turnover of Rs. 16 million for the year ended 31 December 2019.

The first circular issued on the credit support scheme required applicant SMEs to have an annual turnover between Rs. 16 million and Rs. 750 million for the year ended 31 December 2019.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, Colombo Chamber of Commerce (CCC) President Saranga Wijeyarathne noted that as the addition of the micro sector came just 10 days before the revised deadline, the micro sector was left with little time to apply for the scheme while most of them were not even aware of them being added to this revised circular.

“Therefore, we are planning to request the Central Bank tomorrow (24) to extend this scheme by another two weeks, at least for the micro sector. That would be really helpful for the micro businesses,” Wijeyarathne noted.

According to him, the CCC would also request the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) to request the Central Bank to extend this scheme at least for the benefit of micro sector businesses.

The Sunday Morning Business spoke to Confederation of Micro, Small, and Medium Industries (COSMI) Founder President Nawaz Rajabdeen who said that COSMI has already made a request from the CBSL on this matter. “We have asked them to extend this up to 31 March 2020. We have not heard any response yet,” Rajabdeen noted.

As reported by The Sunday Morning Business last week, the Central Bank was rumoured to be expecting around or over 20,000 applications from SMEs requesting the credit support scheme. With the revised deadline of the scheme ending on 10 February, Sri Lanka’s leading private and state-owned banks were said to have received over 3,000 applications each.

According to the circular, banks have been given time until 31 March 2020 to review the applications. With the objective of accelerating economic growth in the country, the Ministry of Finance issued the credit support scheme circular on 13 January this year, providing time until 31 January 2020 to submit applications, which was later revised.

According to CBSL Deputy Governor H.A. Karunaratne, the total advances for the banking sector would be at Rs. 8 trillion, and the maximum possible SME exposure would be at around 10-12% of that.