Titled “Sancharaka-Poddo’ the Government yesterday announced a special relief package with a total interest subsidy cost worth Rs. 1.5 billion for the country’s informal tourism sector which was affected by the April 21 Easter Sunday terror attacks.In addition, several other sectors that were directly affected by the terrorist attacks, such as transportation and entertainment will also be given similar financial concessions from next month. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera speaking at a press briefing held at the Finance Ministry premises yesterday, said that the government will, as a part of the relief package, introduce a loan scheme titled Sancharaka-Poddo from June 10, for individuals who were making their living from providing goods and services to the informal tourism sector in the country.
“Accordingly, such individuals will be able to obtain a loan facility of a maximum of Rs. 500,000 at a zero percent interest rate, along with a 12 month grace period and three year loan repayment period,” the Finance Minister said. The loan facility will be granted via the state-owned Regional Development Bank only, Minister Samaraweera explained. Minister Samaraweera expressed confidence that a one year grace period is sufficient for these borrowers since the country’s tourism industry will thrive again by that time.
“A large number of individuals were gainfully employed in the informal tourism sector within the last few years. Ella and Mirissa would be the best examples for such places where the informal tourism sector thrived. People ran restaurants, surfing stations, ornament shops and offered Home-Stay facilities. Following the Easter Sunday carnage, these people were drastically affected. Since we are a government concerned about the wellbeing of the common people, we are introducing the Sancharaka-Podda loan scheme, in order to save these people from loan sharks,” Minister Samaraweera pointed out.
“In addition, the government will also give a short term special grace period for private bus owners considering the severe impact that the Easter Sunday terror attacks had on the transportation sector,”the Minister said. Accordingly, a grace period will be granted for the installments due on the months of April and May this year on the loans or leasing facilities obtained by private bus owners. Minister Samaraweera said that the Circular pertaining to the said decision has already been sent to the respective banks and finance companies.
Minister Samaraweera also said that the government has decided to give a concessionary loan facility to the members of musical bands, as an initiative by Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister Sajith Premadasa. The Minister said that musical band members will be given a working capital loan facility, a maximum of Rs.500,000 at a 3.46% interest rate and a two year repayment period. “These working capital loans can be obtained from June 10, from the Bank of Ceylon,” Minister Samaraweera further said. “The government shall bear 75% of the total interest rate of these loans,” he pointed out. Similarly, the individuals who are in the Vesak pandol construction industry will also be granted a similar concessionary loan facility,” the Minister also said.
“The government will take the respective decisions by next Wednesday,” the Minister said. The Finance Minister also pointed out that the government is able to give such extended concessions for the people even when the economy has suffered a significant setback due to the terror attacks. This is because of its deliberate economic planning.
Asked if the construction industry would also receive a similar concession form the government, Minister Samaraweera pointed out that he personally believes that the Construction Industry was not severely affected by the terror attacks. However, the Minister said the government will carry out discussions with those who are in the Construction Industry to lift the ban on drones, that has in fact affected the industry.
“Now, we should remember the whole country was directly or indirectly affected by the terror attacks. However, everyone cannot join the concessionary- bandwagon. Or else, we will have to give loans to the whole country,” Minister Samaraweera observed