ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has halted the imports of luxury SUVs for parliamentarians a minister said following a public outcry over the privileged treatment while a ban has been slapped on the ordinary citizens due to forex shortages from money printing.
“We made a policy decision as announced by the Prime Minister, that vehicles will not be purchased,” cabinet spokesman Minister Udaya Gammanpila told reporters.
Reports said Sri Lanka had ordered 227, 2.7 litre 7-seater luxury SUVs, 69 double cab pick-ups along with another SUV and 50 ambulances.
Sri Lanka started giving tax free BMWs to parliamentarians in the late 1980s, when United National Party was in power.
In the late 1980s when the country was in the midst of a civil war triggered by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna provincial councilors were also given tax free SUVs as a sweetner when contests was liable to be assassinated.
The first generation Mitsubishi Pajeros with turbo-charged engines (a novelty at the time) is still known in Sri Lanka as the Palalth Sabha model and is advertised for around 3.0 to 3.5 million rupees in the secondary market.
In Sri Lanka before the import ban, vehicles of private citizens were taxed close to 300 percent while the elected ruling class got tax free vehicles. State workers also get tax slashed cars in another feudal-era style tax privilege.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake, a legislator for the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, alleged that the luxury SUVs were imported as a sweetner for newly elected backbenchers who were critical of the administration.
He said members of parliament get duty free vehicle permits of up to 62,500 US dollars.
“Some purchase the vehicles to match the maximum amount while I and some JVP MPs purchased double cabs worth 15,000 US dollars,” Dissanayake told local television.
“Can any MP talk about vehicles at this period? We accept that it is necessary to give an MP a vehicle for his duties during his MP tenure.
“But a time where there is no money for PCR test and vaccines when ICU beds are reduced and when the people of this country are scared of getting the virus and dying this shows an inhuman mentality.”
Asked whether the government will have to pay penalties for cancelling the order for SUVs, Gammanpila said since the state was a large buyer of vehicles, the Treasury should be able to negotiate. (Colombo/May26/2021)