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Thursday, June 13, 2024

SJB slams Govt. for rushing key bills sans proper stakeholder consultation

  • MP Eran Wickramaratne questions is Economic Transformation Bill a manifesto or a policy since half the people to be appointed to Economic Commission are done by President
  • Exposes Govt.’s lack of action with over 4,500 businesses and individuals found avoiding tax; and 28 alcohol manufacturers haven’t paid excise taxes
  • SJB MP Kabir Hashim stresses importance of relooking at tax policies to help domestic industries; flags off fresh concerns within poultry industry
  • SJB MP Harsha de Silva calls for greater discourse and clarity from Govt. on policy
  • Insists Sri Lanka must enter into workable agreements on external debt restructuring without delay
  • Says SJB rejects GDP 
  • macro-linked bonds scheme that provides upside to bondholders and not to people of Sri Lanka

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday lambasted the Government for rushing multiple bills in Parliament without proper consultation with stakeholders.

At a media briefing by the economist trio of the SJB, Parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne urged the Government to engage in a broader discourse with all stakeholders with respect to key bills that are being presented in the House.

He noted the Economic Transformation Bill was particularly important, as it involves the new agency to attract foreign direct investment replacing the BOI and industrial zones.

“Some of the objectives laid out in these are very good, but don’t rush them through. Take time and engage all stakeholders so there can be substantial value generated to all quarters,” Wickramaratne said.

“We must ask if this is a manifesto or a policy. Because half the people to be appointed to the Economic Commission that governs these are done by the President. If it’s a policy then we should discuss this more and provide more inputs. If nothing else, it all revolves around the President and his operations.”

Wickramaratne also questioned why the Government isn’t converting policy into action, pointing out that over 4,500 businesses and individuals have been found avoiding tax. He also said 28 alcohol manufacturers have avoided excise tax payments and this constitutes a rather grave situation and cannot be condoned.

At the media briefing, SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva also said the Government is rushing many bills before Parliament, but stressed it is important to ensure they offer workable solutions that will enhance productivity and combat corruption. He too called for greater discourse and clarity from the Government on policy.

Dr. de Silva who also heads the Parliamentary Committee on Public Finance (COPF) said Sri Lanka must enter into workable agreements on debt restructuring without delay, and noted that delays will lead to interest payments that would only grow the country’s quantum of debt. He said bureaucrats and officials who have dealt with international lending agencies and banks are aware of this scenario, and said the country cannot afford to delay payments for too long.

SJB MP Kabir Hashim also spoke on the importance of relooking at tax policies to help domestic industries, and pointed out that 18% VAT and income tax of around 30% is killing Sri Lanka’s poultry industry. He also noted the lack of a cohesive policy to support the poultry industry, and pointed to the shortage in animal feed as corn import licences are handed to third parties who create artificial shortages and control price.

“That is a serious concern. Doesn’t the relevant Ministry understand the problems it is creating and the revenue we are missing as a nation. An FTA was signed with Thailand, but I wonder if the Minister knows that duty free access for Sri Lankan products to Thailand comes only in another 15 years. In the meantime Thailand exports over 100,000kgs of chicken to the world and is the 3rd largest exporter. The Government must look at restructuring these laws and support our domestic industries. But there is no such real program,” he alleged.

Parliamentarian Dr. de Silva said SJB is the only party that has put forth a workable and relevant policy roadmap pertaining to the economy and external debt restructuring, and called on the NPP/JVP and other parties to agree to a debate with itself on these points.

By Darshana Abayasingha/FT


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