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Monday February 6th, 2023

Sri Lanka turning from culture of secrecy to transparency with RTI law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Right to Information Commission (RTI Commission) said it has seen an encouraging increase in appeals by people seeking information under the new law with a culture of secrecy turning to a culture of transparency.

But there was much more room for improvement and commitment by public authorities to disclose information, it said in a statement.

“On the part of the Commission it will strive to ensure that the spirit and intention of the legislature is upheld in a manner that citizens of Sri Lanka would reap the benefits of the right to information to the maximum extent possible.”

The RTI law, enacted two years ago, “has created a paradigm shift in Sri Lanka wherein a culture of secrecy is gradually evolving to a culture of transparency and accountability,” the statement said.

“The increasing involvement of women participation in using RTI for advocacy work is noteworthy.

“Furthermore, the increasing visibility and representation of men and women of low income populations who have shed their inhibitions to come before the Commission is a positive trend in Sri Lanka.”

The RTI commission said that there are success stories that Sri Lanka has experienced during the short period of two years since the law came into effect.

However, it noted that there was “much more room for improvement and commitment by public authorities to disclose information in their possession, custody or control.”

The RTI Commission said it was doing several public outreach programs to inform people about the RTI law in different parts of the island.

It had also published two volumes tri-lingually on selected orders of the Right to Information Commission on the impact of RTI on various subjects.

These range from declarations of assets and liabilities of politicians and bilateral agreements to release of police complaints and environment-related policy and permits.

Since its inception in 2017, the RTI Commission has seen an increase in the number of appeals to the Commission with deeper appreciation among citizens in regard to using the right to information.

“From individuals seeking information on personal land related matters to collective groups coming together to seek information on development projects in the public interest, the Commission has observed a wide range of information requested across diverse public authorities,” it said.

While there were 230 appeals received in2017, in 2018 there was an exponential increase to 800 appeals.

By August 2019, the Commission received over 650 appeals.

Most appeals came from the Western and Southern Province.

The commission said it has issued more than 1,500 reasoned orders, releasing information in the majority of appeals heard before it.

The appeals related to a broad range of issues including corruption in the state sector, responding to disclosure requests for information relating to the government’s transitional justice policies and balancing the right to privacy with the overriding public interest.
(COLOMBO, 22 October 2019)

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Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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