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Thursday February 29th, 2024

Sri Lanka cuts exorbitant fees charged from private expressway buses

FILE PHOTO – Students from Wuhan arrivng at Qurantine facilties in Diyatalawa. All students from South Asia also now in Quarantine

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has cut fees charged from privately owned buses ply on expressways allowing fares to be brought down, Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

The National Transport Commission had charged a fee of 1.29 million rupees a year from each bus running on the Colombo-Matara expressway. The fee had gone up to 3.3 million rupees a year in 2022 after hikes in fares.

In a discriminatory move, buses owned by the members of the public were charged fees, but state buses were going free.

A recent hike in fares after the collapse in the rupee from 200 to 360 to the US had led to a drop in passengers, on top difficulties seen during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The majority of the buses are owned by the private sector and these owners incur a massive operating cost, because of the low demand,” Minister Gunawardana said.

“There were 140 buses running in the Matara –Kottawa route, but only 60-70 buses are operating now. There is more than 50 percent drop,”

“There are 28 buses operating from Galle to Kottawa, but now only 15 are working. The Transportation Board has 5 and all of them are operating. Private owners are saying the public is not using them.

A bus with 60 seats now only had around 30 to 40 people on a trip, further reducing the incomes of bus owners.

There 205 buses were operating from Kataragama, Matara and Galle to Kottawa, Kaduwela, Kadawatha, Colombo and Kandy through the expressway system

After considering a request from bus owners, the National Transportation Commission decided to reduce the technical fare back to the previous amount, by changing the formula used to calculate the fee.

The technical fare is determined by the capacity, number of operating days, the bus fare and the profit margin.

“If the capacity of the bus is 100, the formula will be calculated assuming only 50 percent is travelling,” Minister Gunawardana said.

“The days of operating was reduced to 200 from 300 and the profit margin reduced from 12 to 6 percent.

The benefit of the technical fee reduction will go to customers by reducing the bus fare by 10 percent, Gunewardana said. (Colombo/ Jan 05/2023)

 

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Sri Lanka’s RAMIS online tax collection system “not operatable”: IT Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s online tax collection system RAMIS is “not operatable”, and the Ministry of Information Technology is ready to do for an independent audit to find the shortcomings, State IT Minister Kanaka Herath said.

The Revenue Administration Management Information System (RAMIS) was introduced to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) when the island nation signed for its 16th International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016.

However, trade unions at the IRD protested the move, claiming that the system was malfunctioning despite billions being spent for it amid allegations that the new system was reducing the direct contacts between taxpayers and the IRD to reduce corruption.

The RAMIS had to be stopped after taxpayers faced massive penalties because of blunders made by heads of the IT division, computer operators and system errors at the IRD, government officials have said.

“The whole of Sri Lanka admits RAMIS is a failure. The annual fee is very high for that. This should be told in public,” Herath told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Thursday (29)

“In future, we want all the ministries to get the guidelines from our ministry when they go for ERP (Enterprise resource planning).”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government said the RAMIS system will be operational from December last year.

However, the failure has delayed some tax collection which could have been paid via online.

“It is not under our ministry. It is under the finance ministry. We have no involvement with it, but still, it is not operatable,” Herath said.

“So, there are so many issues going on and I have no idea what the technical part of it. We can carry out an independent audit to find out the shortcomings of the software.”

Finance Ministry officials say IRD employees and trade unions had been resisting the RAMIS because it prevents direct interactions with taxpayers and possible bribes for defaulting or under paying taxes.

The crisis-hit island nation is struggling to boost its revenue in line with the target it has committed to the IMF in return for a 3 billion-dollar extended fund facility. (Colombo/Feb 29/2024) 

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Sri Lanka aims to boost SME with Sancharaka Udawa tourism expo

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is hosting Sancharaka Udawa, a tourism industry exhibition which will bring together businesses ranging from hotels to travel agents and airlines, and will allow the small and medium sector build links with the rest of the industry, officials said.

There will be over 250 exhibitors, with the annual event held for the 11th time expected to draw around 10,000 visitors, the organizers said.

“SMEs play a big role, from homestays to under three-star categories,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman, Chalaka Gajabahu told reporters.

“It is very important that we develop those markets as well.”

The Sancharaka Udawa fair comes as the Indian Ocean island is experiencing a tourism revival.

Sri Lanka had welcomed 191,000 tourists up to February 25, compared to 107,639 in February 2023.

“We have been hitting back-to-back double centuries,” Gajabahu said. “January was over 200,000.”

The exhibition to be held on May 17-18, is organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators.

It aims to establish a networking platform for small and medium sized service providers within the industry including the smallest sector.

“Homestays have been increasingly popular in areas such as Ella, Down South, Knuckles and Kandy,” SLAITO President, Nishad Wijethunga, said.

In the northern Jaffna peninsula, both domestic and international tourism was helping hotels.

A representative of the Northern Province Tourism Sector said that the Northern Province has 170 hotels, all of which have 60-70 percent occupancy.

Further, domestic airlines from Colombo to Palali and the inter-city train have been popular with local and international visitors, especially Indian tourists. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 309.50/70 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 309.50/70 to the US dollar Thursday, from 310.00/15 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were slightly higher.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.50/70 percent down from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.10 percent from 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.30/45 percent up from 12.20/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.35/50 percent up from 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.55/13.00 percent up from 12.50/90 percent. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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