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Dues from companies involved in sugar scam, still not collected!

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The Committee on Public Finance, led by Dr. Harsha de Silva expressed its’ deep dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Finance and Inland Revenue Department’s failure to collect foregone taxes from major corporations implicated in the Sugar scam, as outlined in the forensic report by the Auditor General.

During the session, the Committee underscored its disappointment with the lack of action taken by relevant authorities despite a 99.5% reduction in the Special Commodity Levy on sugar imports, as stipulated in Gazette 2197/12 dated October 13, 2020. The Committee emphasized that no accountability measures have been implemented, allowing certain large corporations to unfairly benefit from the reduced tax rate at the expense of consumers.

Report within a week

Specifically, the Committee inquired about the extent of tax collection from the implicated companies and directed the Inland Revenue Department to submit a comprehensive report within one week. The Committee aims to gain clarity on the current status of tax collection related to the Sugar scam.

Further addressing the issue, the Committee highlighted its concern over the proposed reversal of the tax policy, which aims to increase the Special Commodity Levy on sugar from LKR 0.25/Kg back to LKR 50/Kg. The Ministry of Finance’s intention to collect LKR 30 billion from the average Sri Lankan while allowing implicated corporations to evade responsibility was strongly criticized. The Committee emphasized the need to hold wrongdoers accountable before imposing additional financial burdens on the general public.

Additionally, the Committee engaged with officials from the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) to address concerns about the maximum retail price (MRP) not being adhered to by distributors. CAA officials revealed that despite conducting 342 raids and imposing fines on micro, small, and medium businesses exceeding the MRP, challenges persist in penalizing wholesale distributors due to the absence of a maximum wholesale price in the gazette.

The Committee directed the CAA to conduct a comprehensive study on the imposition of MRP, considering factors such as the Special Commodity Levy and importer prices. Furthermore, the Committee requested the CAA to propose a mechanism to address the ongoing issue of wholesale distributors selling above the MRP and engaging in fraudulent activities.

Additionally, the Committee delved into the implications of the Order under Section 22 of the Foreign Exchange Act No. 12 of 2017. This order outlines provisions designed to regulate the movement of funds and foreign exchange transactions for individuals and companies in Sri Lanka, with the overarching objective of sustaining economic stability and effectively managing foreign exchange reserves.

The migration allowance, as stipulated in the order, remains at 50,000 USD, with a reduced allowance of 20,000 USD for temporary visa holders. Officials from the Central Bank apprised the Committee of amendments to the previous gazette, including provisions allowing Sri Lankan individuals to purchase share options in their own overseas companies. Additionally, individuals are now permitted to withdraw 200,000 USD for investment in listed companies and 100,000 USD for unlisted companies.

While acknowledging these changes, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) raised concerns about the feasibility of maintaining such a low migration allowance. He questioned the officials on the prevalence of individuals resorting to unofficial channels, such as Hawala and cryptocurrencies, due to these restrictions. Furthermore, the Chairman inquired whether the officials were aware of instances where Sri Lankans were converting their rupees to USDT (cryptocurrency) through various platforms such as Binance, and subsequently transferring funds abroad or investing in cryptocurrencies. Notably, cryptocurrencies were recently recognized as an asset class by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, with the approval of Exchange-traded funds just last week.

In response to the Chairman’s queries, officials present were unaware of such occurrences and committed to conducting a thorough study into the matter. They emphasized that exchanging rupees into dollars outside formal channels is not permitted, and they will investigate the potential misuse of unofficial avenues for currency exchange and investment.

Members of Parliament – Chandima Weerakkody, Madhura Withanage, Duminda Dissanayake, Sumith Udukumbura were present at the committee meeting held.

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President apologizes over compulsory cremations during Covid-19 pandemic

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe has apologized for making cremation compulsory during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“During this time there was a lot of pain, mainly felt not only by the Muslims, but also Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, I know who also prefer burial,” President Wickremesinghe said in Parliament.

He said that a committee appointed to look into the matter at the time had recommended cremation, a decision which was upheld by the Supreme Court as well. So, that had to be followed. There was no other alternative during that time, he said.

He assured that Sri Lanka will bring in a law that will allow the right of burial, right of cremation or gifting one’s body to medical institutions.

(Excerpts : dailymirror.lk)

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Postage stamp to be increased to Rs. 100 in July

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A proposal has been made to increase the price of an ordinary postage stamp to Rs. 100 by July, Mass Media Ministry Secretary Anusha Palpita said.

He told the Daily Mirror that the Postal Department is currently incurring an annual loss of Rs. 7,000 million.

“Last year, the loss was reduced to Rs. 3,200 million. However, with a salary increase for postal employees costing Rs. 2,800 million this year, the Postal Department’s loss will rise again to Rs. 7,000 million.” he said.

“If the losses continue to increase, it might reach Rs. 5 billion by 2025. Less than 1.5 million people use postage stamps, yet the entire country bears the burden of the Postal Department’s losses,” he added.

The price of a stamp was Rs. 15 until 2022, and the current price is Rs. 50.

“We are awaiting approval from the Treasury to raise the price of a postage stamp. This decision is necessary due to the ongoing losses of the Postal Department,” Palpita said.

(dailymirror.lk)

(This story, originally published by dailymirror.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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SL health officials urge public not to panic over flesh-eating bacteria

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Sri Lankan health authorities have urged the public not to panic about the spread of Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS), or commonly known as ‘flesh-eating bacteria’.

Surging numbers of STSS cases across Japan have raised alarm globally.

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