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Removal of VAT exemptions, doesn’t affect UBER & PickME fares – CoPF

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The Committee on Public Finance (CoPF) has taken into consideration the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill which aims to remove VAT exemptions on certain items and includes provisions to discontinue the Simplified VAT (SVAT) system.

An official representing the Ministry of Finance stated that agricultural machinery and other equipment including chemical fertilizer which was listed as exempted previously will be VAT liable under the said Bill.  Adding to the said, officials stated that agricultural seeds, agricultural plants, shrimp feed inclusive of prawn feed and animal feed excluding poultry feed will however be exempted from VAT.

Thus, the Committee questioned the rationale behind including VAT for agricultural items which will impact the domestic agricultural and food industry. The aforesaid was taken up for discussion at the Committee on Public Finance held recently (28) in Parliament, Chaired by Dr. Harsha de Silva when the Committee met to consider the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, The Finance Bill to amend the Finance Act, No. 35 of 2018 and the Finance Act, No. 12 of 2012 and the Imports and Exports Control Act pertaining to the Gazette No. 2353/16.

Re-evaluate
Furthermore, dairy products such as liquid milk and eggs will also be liable for the VAT. However, the Ministry of Finance stated that wheat, wheat flour or powdered milk, pharmaceutical products, drugs will be exempted. The Committee questioning the officials inquired why food products made out of grains cultivated in Sri Lanka, identified as high protein and high energy agro foods falling in the category of “Posha” is subjected to VAT in a context where Child malnourishment is considered to be on the rise.

The Committee questioned the officials as to why ambulances and medical equipment are being subjected to VAT. After thoroughly examining the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, the Committee has granted approval, contingent upon the Ministry of Finance incorporating the amendments proposed by the Committee on Public Finance, provided they are in accord. Nevertheless, the Committee has urged the officials present to reevaluate VAT exemptions for medical equipment, ambulances, fertilizer, and food products derived from grains classified as high-protein agro foods and agricultural items.

No impact for UBER and PickME
The Committee of Public Finance further revealed that the elimination of VAT exemptions will not impact the fares of UBER and PickME. Dr. Harsha de Silva, the Committee Chair, emphasized that as UBER and PickME have included VAT since their inception, contrary to other beliefs, thus the proposed VAT changes will only result in a 3% rise without significantly affecting the ultimate fare that customers are required to pay.

The Committee on Public Finance also took into consideration the Finance Bill to amend the Finance Act, No. 35 of 2018 and the Finance Act, No. 12 of 2012 which propose provisions to release motor vehicles imported into Sri Lanka which were not cleared from customs due to import restrictions or non-payment of taxes. However, given the matters arising from importing and opening LCs post the suspension of motor vehicle imports by Gazette Extraordinary No. 2176/19 dated May 22, 2020, under the Import and Export Control Act, the Committee Chair instructed the Ministry of Finance to submit a report on the provisions to release 119 imported vehicles yet to be cleared from customs. The Committee thus decided to reconsider the said from thereon.

Moreover, following the consideration of the Imports and Exports Control Act pertaining to the Gazette No. 2353/16, the Committee approved the said.

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Rs. 20 Bn loan lifeline for SMEs

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The government has taken measures to implement a Rs.20 billion credit scheme to revive the micro, small and medium enterprise sector in Sri Lanka.  

Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers has granted its consent to the proposal forwarded by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies Minister to implement a credit scheme to revive the micro, small and medium enterprise sector.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet media briefing held yesterday at the Government Information Department, Cabinet Spokesman, Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana said the proposed Rs.20 billion will be spent on the entire project which has two components.

“Out of this, Rs.15 billion will be used to strengthen existing and new enterprises and the remaining amount of Rs.five billion will be used to support enterprises under the non-performing loan category.

A significant number of small and medium scale entrepreneurs involved in manufacturing, import, export, tourism, apparel and various other commercial operations have found it very difficult to continue running their enterprises as a result of the economic downturn and the impact of external factors beyond their control.

The Asian Development Bank has agreed to provide working capital support for the Small and Medium Enterprise sector as a relief. The proposed programme is intended to provide credit facilities to existing micro, small and medium scale enterprises for further expansion and recovery of their businesses through licensed commercial banks and licensed specialised banks at concessional interest rates.

(dailynews.lk)

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Won’t be able to offer SriLankan to investors even for free – Minister

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Ports, Shipping, and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday (26) spoke firmly on the national carrier – SriLankan Airlines, stating that the airline’s disruptive employees and tarnished reputation would deter potential buyers in the privatisation process.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, he said  “We cannot run an airline with disruptive employees. This is a critical moment for SriLankan Airlines. We cannot afford to entertain employees who fail to handle situations under pressure.”

“The deadline for the Expressions of Interest (EOIs) is set for 5 March and in the present scenario, according to the information I received some of the bidders want to withdraw. With the negative reputation plaguing the airline, we will not be in a position to offer it free-of-charge even,” the minister claimed.

However, SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage’s views had contrasted starkly with that of Minister de Silva.

The discussion saw a disagreement regarding ground handling. Minister De Silva advocated for immediate privatization of the service, citing shortcomings. Chairman Pathirage, while acknowledging areas for improvement, argued that the lack of aircraft, not ground handling, was the primary issue. He blamed lengthy government procurement procedures for hindering fleet acquisition.

De Silva justified his push for privatization by citing the airline’s struggles and reports of potential bidders withdrawing their interest. While not inherently opposed to privatization, Pathirage emphasized the ongoing process and the lack of control the airline has in the decision.

Meanwhile, trade union representatives commended Pathirage for his leadership whilst blaming political interventions and its past management. 

“We all undoubtedly praise the Chairman for his leadership and unwavering commitment to operate this airline amidst all odds. Neither the employees nor the current management of the SriLankan Airlines are responsible for the cancellations and bad reputation, but the political intervention,” they stated.

They also slammed the former COPE Chairmen and MPs Dr. Harsha de Silva and Dr. Charitha Herath for disrupting the lease procedure of the airline when the aircraft were at a lower price. “They are responsible for all the operational delays the airline is facing at present,” they claimed.

(Excerpts : DailyFT)

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Australia’s United Petroleum enters SL market

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Australia’s United Petroleum has entered into an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to supply petroleum products to the Sri Lankan market.

According to United Petroleum Lanka, Australia’s United Petroleum entered into the relevant agreement with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Power and Energy on Feb 22.

Following the signing of the agreement, United Petroleum is assigned 150 existing fuel stations and also has the right to build 50 new fuel stations in Sri Lanka.

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