Dec 31, 2016

Nandana Lokuwithana continues to receive preferential treatment Featured

President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to withdraw the taxes, deemed unreasonable, imposed on all steel importers, excepting Ceylon Steel Corporation Ltd.

Chairman of the Corporation is Nandana Jayadeva Lokuwithana, accused of having been the investor of the ill-gotten money of the Rajapaksas in various businesses.

There was speculation that the true owner of the institution was Basil Rajapaksa.

Lokuwithana bought Dubai Marriot Hotel during the previous regime.

It is highly suspicious that the finance ministry has given tax concessions to a person facing such disreputable accusations.

CESS not applicable to him

A CESS of Rs. 8.00 per kilo was imposed from 2017 budget on imported iron, sending all other importers excepting Lowithana, into crisis.

Ironically, the day the tax was imposed, on 16 November 2016, a ship arrived at Colombo port with 20,000 tons of the iron for the Corporation.

The loss of tax revenue for the state from the consignment was Rs. 160 million.

After other importers objected, the CESS was replaced with a custom duty, which too, was not made applicable for Lokuwithana with a claim his Corporation was coming under strategic development projects.

This has allowed him to enjoy a monopoly, but disaster for others, including 40,000 direct and indirect employees in the sector who are in danger of losing their jobs.

Despite a meeting between the finance secretary and the affected importers December 12, the tax remained in force.

After representations were made to the president, he has ordered the removal of the custody duty.

However, this order has reportedly been made effective until 31 December last year only, while the director general of the trade investment policy department has recommended that the concession be given on a case-by-case basis.

Accordingly, pursuant to a request on acting finance minister at the time Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, only two leading importers are to be given the concession.

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