COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka has hiked a tax on imported edible oil, punishing consumers of vegetable oils with higher prices in a bid to discourage suppliers who were also cheating customers with adulterated coconut oil.
The Finance Ministry said an import commodity levy has been raised to 110 rupees a kilo from 90 rupees, because some suppliers were found to be mixing vegetable oils with coconut oil and passing them off as coconut oil.
There was no mention whether the suppliers or traders selling adulterated food have been punished, instead of raising taxes and engaging in collective punishment of the victims themselves.
Collective punishment in general and punishing victims instead of the perpetrators is a sign of a breakdown of rule of law analysts say.
"This can be expressed as the difference between a ‘King Solomon’ coming to judgement and ‘King Kekille’ coming to judgement," an analysts who had been studying the illiberal acts of Sri Lankan rulers said.
Interventionist taxes on vegetable oils have also led a to classic ‘unintended negative consequences’ where rubber trees are being replaced by oil palm due to artificially high prices, in addition to hurting the hungry generally.
Analysts have also warned that the Sri Lanka’s taxation by midnight gazette undermines the fundamental principles of Parliamentarism and the liberties of the people, giving not only the elected ruling class, but also unelected bureaucrats powers to hike or lower taxes on unarmed citizens without debate.
The midnight gazette was widely practiced during the ousted Rajapaksa regime to manipulate food taxes.
The Finance Ministry also said it had lowered a commodity levy from 5.00 to 0.25 cents amid a rise in world prices allowing consumers to eat red and yellow lentils (parippu) at a lower price.