There are three major things the GoSL (mostly the Central Bank) does to hurt Sri Lankan business. These are all just bad policies, which could be changed overnight, so they should just do it. The problems are : 1) No PayPal remittances are allowed 2) dual citizenship is suspended and 3) there are new restrictions on sending money out. Why do these matter? Let’s go one by one.
1) No PayPal
PayPal sucks in its own ways, but it’s become a sort of standard currency online. It’s very easy to do billing through it and most modern themes and sites are setup to receive cash that way. In Sri Lanka – because the Central Bank simply doesn’t allow it – we cannot receive funds. We can pay through PayPal, but we can’t earn. This cripples online business here. I’ve written more about this in the past.
2) Dual Citizenship Suspended
I’m a dual citizen, but as of a few years ago, they’re not accepting applications. Mine took years and about $2,000, which seems backwards, since I was trying to settle here and have since paid much more in taxes, etc. Now it’s gone from that bad system to none at all, there simply is no legal process to become dual, even if you have Sri Lankan parents and – under law – are entitled to apply. The process is now ‘suspended’ and I get hassled at the airport also. It’s like, why.
Dual Citizens are people who can add real value to the Sri Lankan economy and the government is basically forcing them to stay away. These are skilled workers who other countries try to attract, but the GoSL is repelling them. Plus these are Sri Lankans, people who love the country, who have family here. WTF. Another issue is that Sri Lanka has no immigration policy at all. If someone from another country wants to live here as a resident they simply cannot. It’s not even legally possibly, unless they throw down prestige and raw cash like, say Arthur C. Clarke. Even if you marry a Sri Lankan, even if you marry a Minister, you cannot become a citizen. Even if you have kids here, if the marriage breaks up, you can be forced to leave. The system is completely whack, and completely bad for business.
3) Restrictions On Sending Money Out
This is a new one. I recently tried to pay a (Sri Lankan) supplier in Singapore, through HSBC Online. It said ‘this type of transaction is not allowed’ and completely kicked me off the account. I called and they were like, the Central Bank has restricted foreign transfers for only ‘personal’ things. And they were asking me why I was transferring the money. I was like A) WTF and B) WTF. They did say I could do foreign transactions on the credit card, but I can’t pay for suppliers that way. It’s just silly.
HSBC sucks more than other banks, but they said it wasn’t just them. Which makes me wonder, how exactly would a small business person, like, do business? I’m assuming big guys have a way around this, but I don’t. And it’s just silly.
So, these are specific policies the government has undertaken that hurt business. I’m not even talking about the general economic mismanagement, corruption, waste. These are decisions they’ve taken that restrict the Sri Lankan entrepreneur, especially the Internet entrepreneur and ultimately hurt the country. It’s uncool. I’m going to track down this Cabraal and tell him so. I think we should lobby the buggers.