The Bank of Ceylon hosts the Policy Forum of Asia Pacific Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (APRACA) in Sri Lanka.

The inauguration ceremony of Asia Pacific Rural and Agricultural Credit Association’s (APRACA) Regional Policy Forum, 70th Executive Committee Meeting (EXCOM) and 21st General Assembly held at Hilton Hotel Colombo as scheduled on October 8, 2018. The Forum will be continued till October 10, 2018 at the same venue, with the participation of foreign delegates from member countries. This year the APRACA member banks from Asia-Pacific region will be gathered under the theme “Financing Micro, small and Medium enterprise; Solutions for Missing Middle”. Minister of Finance and Mass Media Hon. Mangala Samaraweera and the Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr.Indrajit Coomaraswamy also addressed the forum on the inauguration day. APRACA was established in 1977 as the organization on rural and agricultural finance that helps promote productivity, inclusive growth, self- reliance and welfare of the rural poor in the Asia-Pacific region. Since then it has been promoting coorporation and facilitating mutual exchange of information and expertise in the field of rural finance. Currently it has a total of eighty three institutions from twenty four countries in the Asia-Pacific region. For many years now APRACA has been praised as an Association that has aspired to work for rural growth and development particularly to uplift the rural poor in the Asia-Pacific region.

APRACA is a non-government international organization involving central banks, agricultural and development banks, commercial banks, apex organizations, federations of financial institutions and rural development institutions in the region who are involved directly in agricultural credit and rural development. Its headquarters is situated in Bangkok, Thailand. APRACA’s training and research arm CENTRAB- Center for Training and Research for Agricultural Banking was established in 1989 in Manila, Philippines with the aim of formalizing existing informal arrangements to stimulate and facilitate cooperation in the area of training and research and encourage knowledge and understanding of financial, monetary, banking and economic development issues relating to agriculture and rural areas.

“The Nepal Rastra Bank has been actively participating in the APRACA since its foundation in 1977. APRACA has made continuous efforts to promote the development of rural financial institutions for enhancement of rural livelihood through varieties of rural and agricultural credit facilities in the region. During four decades, the number of member institutions of APRACA has been increased to 84 financial institutions spread over 24 countries and providing continuous support to APRACA. This year, we are participating in the policy forum on “Financing Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises: solution for Missing Middle” and 70th APRACA EXCOM and 21st General Assembly in Colombo, Sri Lanka” acknowledged by Mr. Shiba Raj Shrestha, Deputy Governor, Nepal Rastra Bank and Chairman, APRACA. He further stated that, “this policy forum is a matter of interest and concern for millions of small and micro-entrepreneurs that are the backbone of both developing and developed economies. Financing SMEs plays a key role in promoting entrepreneurship and ultimately strengthening society and eradicating poverty”.

“The Bank of Ceylon has an inherent keen interest to promote financial inclusion in the country through contributing to develop MSME sector with special focus on rural and agricultural based businesses. This has made BOC a significant driving-force in the Government of Sri Lanka’s agenda for economic sustainability. It is a privilege therefore, to host the Regional Policy Forum, 70th APRACA EXCOM and 21st General Assembly on behalf of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan member institutions to facilitate a platform that guides members of Asia-Pacific region to develop innovative strategies to ensure financial stability and fiscal sustainability” stated the CEO/General Manager Bank of Ceylon and the Vice-chair APRACA Mr. Senarath Bandara. “This event also offers the opportunity for participating local banks and financial institutions to expand and strengthen their network with other similar foreign institutions in the regions” he further added.

It is after many years that Sri Lanka is hosting this internationally significant event. The forum will discuss challenges and tools to enhance access to finance by MSMEs in the Asia Pacific region. As such the focus will be on market based approaches and the role of central Banks, Development Banks, commercial Banks etc. to improve countries’ lending infrastructure and financial regulation,  opportunities and challenges arising from the rapid expansion of “fintech” in the region, identify needs for further cooperation among member institutions and countries, efforts to further improve access to financial and non-financial services that are innovative and tailored to suit market needs to further bridge the financing gap for MSMEs. Recommendations emanating from the regional forum will provide guidance to the APRACA member on strategies to enhance MSME financing while ensuring financial stability and fiscal sustainability.

The forum consists of three technical sessions on the first day that is October 8, 2018 in which the forum discussed on current state of affairs on financing MSMEs in the Asia-Pacific region. Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Mr. C.J.P. Siriwardana moderate this session and Dr. Surekha Marandi, Executive Director of Reserve Bank India was as the moderator for the second technical session which discussed on Policy environment to promote MSMEs, incentivize innovations, markets and finance. The third session shared and discussed success stories on MSME financing across Asia-Pacific Region and an Advisor to the Ministry of Finance Mr. Deshal De Mel moderated this session. The technical session and the inauguration winded-up with a closing speech by the Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy. The 70th EXCOM meeting and 21st General Assembly of APRACA will take place on the second day, that is October 9, 2018 which will discuss, inter alia the APRACA strategic plan for 2019 – 2024. On the third and final day foreign delegates will go on a field visit to MSME finance showcases in Sri Lanka.