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Sunday December 3rd, 2023

Sri Lanka’s inland revenue (amendment) bill can be passed by simple majority: SC

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s new Inland Revenue (Amendment) Bill is not inconsistent with the constitution and can be passed in parliament by a simple majority, the Supreme Court has determined.

The bill was challenged in the Supreme Court in terms of article 121(1) of the constitution.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told parliament on Tuesday September 05 that the court has held that neither the bill nor any of its provisions is inconsistent with article 12 of any provisions of the constitution.

Minutes after the Speaker’s announcement, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe tweeted that the court’s determination will establish credibility both domestically and internationally in relation to economic stability.

“Few opportunistic political forces worked to destabilize the foreign debt restructuring process by delaying the domestic debt optimization programme by challenging the Gazette dated 14th July 2023 related to the Inland Revenue (Amendment) Act.

“The attempt was to weaken the emerging economy and achieve narrow political goals. However with today’s determination of the Supreme Court announced in parliament will establish credibility both domestically & internationally in relation to economic stability,” he said.

Mahindananda Aluthgamage, a government MP who chairs the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Planning, said on August 17 that the proposed amendments to the inland revenue act will serve to address purported underperformance of Inland Revenue Department (IRD) officials in a bid to enhance income tax collection.

The objective is to make formidable decisions regarding officials not contributing effectively to the state’s tax revenue enhancement, a statement from the president’s media division (PMD) quoted Aluthgamage as saying.

The MP noted that there is only one person in the country who pay taxes in excess of 300 million rupees.

“There’s only one person in Sri Lanka who pays more than 300 million rupees in tax. Only three people between 50 million and 100 million rupees; only 16 people between 25 and 50 million; 137 between 5 and 10 million; 508 between 2 and 5 million; 804 between 1 and 2 million, and 5,473 between 500,000 and 1 million rupees,” he said.

An immediate overhaul of the nation’s tax policy is imperative, the PMD quoted Aluthgamage as saying.

Speaking at a meeting of the committee he chairs on July 06, Aluthgamage said only 31,000 Sri Lankans out of some 500,000 persons with registered income tax files pay personal income tax while 328 registered limited companies out of 105,000 contribute to 82 percent of tax revenue.Sri Lanka has been compelled to increase its tax revenue in the wake of the 2022 currency crisis, the worst in decades, and the subsequent agreement with the IMF over a 2.9 billion dollar extended fund facility. However, resistance to a hike in progressive personal income tax has been high, with many high-income earning professionals in the state sector holding a number of protests against the increase.

Value added taxes were also raised to 15 percent from 8 percent last year. Another 2.5 percent cascading tax was imposed on top of VAT, the effect of which was estimated to be around 4.5 or more through the cascading effect.

The IMF had reportedly asked the cash strapped Sri Lankan government to impose taxes on all who receive monthly income of above 41,667 rupees as a prior condition for the bailout, but

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration had instead imposed a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax on everyone who earns over 100,000 rupees a month.

The IMF has defended the tax hike, arguing that creditors and investors will not support Sri Lanka because tax to GDP had fallen steeply. Taxes, including value added taxes were slashed in 2019 December to target a ‘persistent output gap’, after serial currency crises from flexible inflation targeting reduced growth. (Colombo/Sep05/2023)

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  1. KD says:

    Why should people pay high taxes when we have incompetent parliament members and a President and PM wasting billions on unnecessary government expenditure. First we need to reduce parliament from 225 to 9 and cut 90% of ministries. Then lets talk about paying more taxes.

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  1. KD says:

    Why should people pay high taxes when we have incompetent parliament members and a President and PM wasting billions on unnecessary government expenditure. First we need to reduce parliament from 225 to 9 and cut 90% of ministries. Then lets talk about paying more taxes.

UAE investors express interest in Sri Lanka’s energy, tourism, ports, real estate: Ali Sabry

ECONOMYNEXT – A group of investors based in the United Arab Emirates have expressed their interest in renewable energy, tourism, ports, and real estates, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry told Economy Next.

A Sri Lankan delegation led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe is in Dubai to take part in the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28).

Sabry said a group of large investors met the President on Friday and discussed possible opportunities in Sri Lanka.

“We met big investors here particularly on renewable energy, tourism, port development and also infrastructure development and real estate. That’s where they are doing very well,” Foreign Minister told Economy Next.

“Our embassy will organize a higher-level business delegation to visit Sri Lanka to look at the available opportunities.”

“There is a lot of traction and interest in Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka has been exploring to attract investors to crisis hit Sri Lanka which declared bankruptcy in April last year with sovereign debt default.

Since then, most investors have taken a step back from investing in the island nation due to its inability to serve debts and uncertainty over such investments.

Several government officials said investors may start pouring dollars into Sri Lanka very carefully after they see some certainty of debt repayments. (Dubai/Dec 3/2023)

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Sri Lanka to push for green initiative investment “after OCC finalizing” debt deals – President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will push for investment into green initiatives globally after the Official Creditor Committee (OCC) finalizing on the island nation’s debt restructuring, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Economy Next at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28).

President Wickremesinghe along with local and global advisors has inaugurated three ambitious projects to convert climate change-led disaster funding, which is mostly seen as donations, into viable commercial enterprises involving private sector investments.

The idea is to rally all the global nations in the Tropical Belt threatened by disasters related to climate change and bargain collectively with advanced economies which emit more greenhouse gases into the environment resulting in global warming for more green initiatives like renewable energy projects.

Wickremesinghe initiated a Climate Justice Forum (CJF), Tropical Belt Initiative (TBI), and called on the world to help establish the International Climate Change University in Sri Lanka.

His moves have been welcomed by global leaders, though analysts said an initiative like TBI is a “bold and imaginary” step.

“This is the first step. We have now put forward the proposal,” Wickremesinghe told Economy Next on Sunday on the sideline of the COP28 in Dubai’s EXPO 2020.

“There is an interest. We have to wait for OCC finalizing (debt restructuring) before pushing for investments.”


Global investors are hesitant to invest in Sri Lanka due to its bankruptcy and sovereign debt default.

Sri Lanka is still recovering from an unprecedented economic crisis which has compelled the island nation to declare bankruptcy with sovereign debt default.

President Wickremesinhe during a forum on Saturday said his initiatives would help government in advanced countries not to use tax money of its own people for climate related disasters in other countries and instead, private sector investors could help by investing in renewable energy initiatives.

President Wickremesinghe’s government has been in the process of implementing some tough policies it committed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stabilize the country and ensure sustainability in its borrowing.

Sri Lanka is yet to finalize the debt restructuring fully as it still has to negotiate on repayment schedule of commercial and sovereign bond borrowing.

The OCC and Sri Lanka had agreed on the main parameters of a debt treatment consistent with those of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement between Sri Lanka and the IMF.

The members of the Paris Club which are part of the Official Creditor Committee are representatives of countries with eligible claims on Sri Lanka: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America.

The OCC has said it was expecting other bilateral creditors to consent to sharing, in a transparent manner, the information necessary for the OCC to evaluate comparability of treatment regarding their own bilateral agreement.

The OCC also has said it expects that the Sri Lankan authorities will continue to engage with their private creditors to find as soon as possible an agreement on terms at least as favourable as the terms offered by the OCC. (DUBAI/Dec 3/2023)

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Sri Lanka alcohol regulations may be spurring moonshine: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s alcohol regulations may be reducing access to legal products and driving illegal moonshine sector, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said amid plans to change opening times of retail outlets.

Sri Lanka is currently discussing changing the opening times of bars (retail alcohol outlets), he said.

Sri Lanka’s excise laws may be contributing to the growth of illegal products, Minister Siyambalapitiya was quoted as saying at the annual meeting of Sri Lanka’s excise officers.

Over 20 years legal alcohol sales have grown 50 percent but illegal products are estimated to have grown 500 percent, he said.

It is not clear where the 500 percent estimate came from.

In Kandy there was a bar for every 6,000 persons but in Mullativu there was one for only 990,000 persons and people had to travel 80 kilometres to get to a legal outlet, Minister Siyambalapitiya had said.

However Sri Lanka has a widespread moonshine or ‘kasippu’ industry driven by high taxes on legal products.

The widely used ‘gal’ or special arrack is now around 3,500 rupees and may go up further with a hike in value added tax. About 2000 rupees of the sale price is taxes.

After a currency collapse and tax hikes legal alcohol sales have fallen, leading to local sugar companies burying ethanol, according to statements made in parliament.

An uneven distribution of bars may also be driving people towards alcohol.

Alcohol sales is controlled on the grounds that it is an addictive product which can lead to poverty, ill-health, bad behaviour and criminal activities, though advocates of high taxes ignore the poverty angle.

High taxes are promoted by temperance movements some of whom have called for outright prohibition in the last century.

Temperance movements spread among evangelical groups in the West and were also embraced by nationalists/moralists and independence movements in colonial authorities.

Prohibition in the US however led to more criminal activity as an organized crime took to bootlegging. (Colombo/Dec03/2023)

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