ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka is planning to hire dozens unemployed graduates to police price controls that are expected to be imposed next week, a senior minister had told parliament while the administration plans to turn the country into a Singapore style services hub.
Traders were pushing up prices after value added tax was imposed, to levels higher than required by the tax hike, rulers have claimed.
Under Sri Lanka's bizzarre VAT law, customers are not required to be given VAT invoices so people cannot say whether the tax is charged on not.
Trade minister Rishad Bathiudeen had told parliament that prices of Thai sprats differed widely in the market from location to location and "consumers were of the view" that prices increases was due to value added tax.
"Therefore, these concerns should be addressed positively in order to maintain the Cost of Living in the country while ensuring delivery of quality goods and lowest price to the end consumer," Bathiudeen was quoted as saying in parliament.
The price controls are apparently triggered by the a hike in value added tax, imposed without debate in Sri Lanka's rubber-stamp parliament, defying fundamental principles of parliamentarism and freedom.
Sprats and Middle Men
Minister Bathiudeen said Thai sprats (dried herring) defined 'good quality' was being sold at 530 rupees at state-run LakSathosa - a retail network that is making billions of rupees in losses and is bailed out with tax payer money - in the market prices varied between 700 to 850 rupees.
"When it comes to remote areas price goes up to Rs. 900/-due to the intervention of the middle men," he said.
"But I must emphasize here that no VAT is imposed on essential items.
"Therefore, the present pricing formula which is implemented by the Consumer Affairs Authority must be re-published and proper monitoring activity should be established district wise to monitor and raid."
The Cabinet of Ministers will meet next Tuesday July 12 to decide on the prices of essential goods, re-gazetted.
"Accordingly, hereinafter, twice a week prices will be telecast through print media and electronic media," Bathiudeen said.
"If maximum retail prices are not maintain in the market aggrieved consumer can lodge a complaint to the Consumer Affairs Authority which we have established in each and every district."
Price Control Police
Sri Lanka is also planning to ramp up raids on shops by hiring graduates to police price controls in every district.
"And also this week we discussed to strengthen capacity of the consumer Affairs Authority by employing 100 additional graduates," he said.
Sri Lanka's tax-payer funded universities turn out tens of thousands of graduates each year who do not work in productive sectors but protests in front of the main railway station in the capital until they are given state sector jobs with lifetime pensions also at the expense of society.
The ministry will also expand LakSathosa outlets to 500 from the current 300. LakSathosa lost 3.6 billion rupees in 2015. It also owes banks 8.7 billion rupees on a rice scam it said.
Sri Lanka's government expects only 100 billion rupees in revenue from a recent rise in value added tax.
Critics say Sri Lanka's rulers have also artificially pushed up the prices of many foods with import duties and excise taxes to win the votes of the producer lobby and also taxes tinned fish to boost profits of four politically connected firms that make high priced tinned fish domestically. (Colombo/July09/2016)