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Sunday September 24th, 2023

Sri Lanka looking into taxpayer top up for mandated estate wage hike: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s taxpayer support may be extended to supplement a state mandated wage hike to workers of plantations plantations companies, cabinet spokesman minister Ramesh Pathirana said.

Pathirana who is also Plantation Industries Minister said the cabinet is “looking into” providing Treasury support for a 1,000 rupee minimum wage for estate workers, up from 700 rupees, decreed by the cabinet of ministers.

“We are looking into that aspect as well, but they (RPCs) have proposed three models,” Pathirana told reporters on Thursday.

“These are the outgrower, productivity-based incentives and also a revenue sharing model,” he said.

“For an interim period of time, the government may intervene if required,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s privatized Regional Plantations Companies grow tea, rubber, coconut, oil palm and spices.

The last administration also gave 50 rupee tax payer top up to a collective for a year in a agreement signed between unions and workers to take the daily wage to 700 rupees from 500.

Pathirana said the RPCs have in principle agreed to the wage hike but negotiations are ongoing on which model the estate sector will take on in the future.

“We should be able to come to a decision by the first week of March,” he said.

Wages are revised every two years, and the government direction has forced a change one year early.

In addition to the labour cost rise, plantations had to grapple with bad weather, which had pushed the industry into losses in the first half of the 2019/20 financial year.

Estate workers have traditionally worked on an attendance-based model, and have received pay even when they show up for a minimum of 25 days of work per month, even if they are not productive.

The 2016 wage negotiations had given rise to a hybrid model, where workers plucking over 18 kilogrammes of tea leaves per day would gain over kilo rates.

The Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank, has said estate workers earn 3,055 rupees below a living wage every month under the current minimum wage structure. (Colombo/Feb13/2020)

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Sri Lanka India industrial zone around Trinco, maritime links mooted

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ports Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had highlighted the desire of both the Governments to work closely to develop the industrial zone at Trincomalee, after accepting an invitation to participate in a maritime summit.

The Global Maritime India Summit (GMIS) will be held in India from October 17-19, 2023 at Mumbai where Sri Lanka has been invited at a partner country.

At a curtain raiser event on September 22, India’s High Commissioner in Colombo, Gopal Baglay had said both countries were working on enhancing sea connectivity according to a vision document launched during a recent visit of the President of Sri Lanka to India.

Minister de Silva will lead a delegation from Sri Lanka to the summit.

Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, T K Ramachandran said the Global Maritime India Summit aims strengthen the Indian maritime economy by promoting global and regional partnerships and facilitating investments.

The event will give an opportunity to the Government of Sri Lanka to attracting greater investment from India in development of its maritime infrastructure, Ramachandran said.

It will also facilitate greater business to business interactions. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

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Sri Lanka brings back import para tariff on milk

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has brought back an import para tariff called the Ports and Airports Levy, to several grades of milk powder.

Milk powder has been removed from a list of PAL exemptions, making them liable for a 10 percent tax.

The PAL para tariffs are also a contentious issue in terms of export competitiveness, and the government has previously given undertakings that they will be eliminated.

Trade freedoms of the poor figure in an IMF/World bank reform program with the governments.

Milk is a protein rich food, in a country where children of poor families are facing stunting and malnutrition.

Economic nationalism is seen at high levels in food, with several businessmen are pushing for trade protection, amid an overall autarkist (self-sufficiency) ideology, going directly against policies followed in East Asia, which the same as hold up as examples.

Sri Lanka keeps dairy product prices up ostensibly to bring profits to a domestic dairy company and farmers.

Sri Lanka also keeps maize prices up, ostensibly to give profits to farmers and collectors. (Colombo/Sept22/2023)

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Sri Lanka govt warns liquor manufacturers: pay defaulted tax or lose licence

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka government which is struggling to raise the state revenue despite   higher taxes, has warned liquor manufacturers to pay defaulted taxes or lose their licence.

The government is now getting tough with past tax defaulters amid concerns over falling short of this year’s revenue target agreed with the International Monetary Fun (IMF).

“Liquor manufacturing firms owe us 660 crore rupees (6.6 billion rupees),” Siyambalapitiya told  reporters on Thursday (21).

“Most of this or around a third is the only excise tax amount to be paid. The rest is penalty. If a liquor manufacturer does not pay on time, we impose a penalty of 3 percent per month This means 36 percent (penalty) per annum,” he said.

“We have given them deadline to repay the basic excise taxes. If they don’t pay, we will cancel their licence.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government committed an ambitious revenue target among many other reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return to a $3 billion loan package.

However, the revenue could face a short fall of 100 billion rupees, State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

A new Central Bank Act also has legally prevented the government of printing money at its discretion as  in the past.  (Colombo/September 24/2023)

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