The Story

The worst hit are not the taxed – it’s those who don’t earn enough to get taxed. They are employed in the vast MSME network of Sri Lanka. More than 80% of all businesses are MSMEs, and possibly half of all jobs are generated there. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka has this to say. “Driven by low financial literacy and difficulties in accessing the formal financial system due to a variety of reasons, many small businesses in Sri Lanka end up utilizing the services of unregistered money lenders, who are widely spread across the country, providing financial services at extremely high-interest rates.”

Every Friday, the counseling center attracts online clients from all over the country, who want to take advantage of the free counseling service. Every Friday, we hear The Story in many versions. It goes like this:

  • The company went out of business. I am unable to pay my children’s school fees. Because we couldn’t get into a government school, our children had to attend International Schools. I can’t stand by and watch my children suffer like this.
  • I had to close down the business. I built it up for 20 years. I started it when I was only 16, but I was successful. I gave employment to 35 workers. Now I cannot buy the raw material – no imports. The little that is available in the market is extremely expensive. I have not made even 20% of the average sales. So how can we live? I don’t know how to work in an office. I don’t speak English. I can drive but I sold my vehicles to pay the creditors. Now what? Next month, we will lose our home also.
  • The factory was shut down. I’ve been unable to find a new job. My parents are elderly. I am unable to travel to the Middle East because I cannot leave my parents. Who will take care of them? My father suffers from heart disease, and my mother’s kidneys are failing. I’m engaged to be married, but how do I tie the knot? She is a teacher, and her salary allows her to care for her disabled father and younger sister. She was recently transferred to Mathale, while I am currently in Galle. I feel like I’m confined in a cage. I’m unable to even go to Colombo to look for work.
  • My husband was laid off. He has begun to drink. He is becoming depressed and refuses to get out of bed. He refuses to go to the hospital. We have two children who are not attending school this year because we were unable to purchase shoes for them. I’m at a loss for what to do. I’ve taken out loans from moneylenders. The amount I owe is incalculable. My husband has no idea. He would die if he knew. So, what will I do?

Today is no exception. Another Friday has passed. The plot remains unchanged.

** The examples given above are representative of real issues. Complete confidentiality is maintained for all our clients.

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