Tax-free too far?

Published : 12:00 am  May 12, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  1 Comment  |  716 views  |  

HOW far is too far when it comes to tax holidays? Having passed three massive hotel projects worth an estimated $ 1.4 billion complete with tax concessions and, if latest reports by the Cabinet Spokesman are to be believed, sneaking though casinos, the Government is now focusing on pushing through more tax holidays for foreign investors. Weekend reports indicate the Government now wants to give attractive tax and other concessions to two Hong Kong firms which want to build apartment units, club houses, shopping complexes and car parking facilities along R.A. de Mel Mawatha (Duplication Road) in Colpetty for $ 250 million. The rationale for the project, according to Investment Promotion Minister... 


Cleaning taxes

Published : 12:00 am  May 10, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  802 views  |  

A Sri Lankan court this week handed a 102-year suspended jail term and imposed a fine of Rs. 11.98 billion to a former Deputy Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department over the staggering VAT fraud that has been unfolding for over a decade. Sri Lanka’s quest for an equitable and simple tax policy is a long one, and perhaps the reason for this is that the people who guide such policies are not honest in their intentions to reduce the inequality seen in society. An overloaded and inefficient legal system has also made matters worse and, despite the massive fraud, little has been done to make the country’s tax system more efficient. This has been observed by the Parliamentary Committee on... 


Liberating exports

Published : 12:00 am  May 9, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  532 views  |  

SRI LANKA’S exports are shining with double digit growth, kicking off 2014 by earning $ 1.73 billion and increasing hope for a landmark year. However, there are still many regulatory and practical hurdles that need to be ironed out if the country is to reach the $ 12 billion mark in December for $ 20 billion in 2020. High electricity costs, unproductive labour laws, high finance costs and low budget allocations for investment in research and development are among the main reasons for flagging exports. A knotty regulatory framework, unstained policies and even complicated EPF and ETF systems are all among the bottlenecks highlighted by experts at various times. Exporters have also lamented the... 


Nation of plastic politicians and Police!

Published : 12:00 am  May 8, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  1 Comment  |  773 views  |  

FOUR non-prominent participants of the attack on a group of United National Party (UNP) MPs while they were engaging in an inspection tour of the Hambantota Harbour and Mattala Airport were briefly arrested and released on bail this week. They were more responsible as the main actor, namely the Mayor of Hambantota, was absconding. He however surrendered himself yesterday and was subsequently released on bail too. The south is no stranger to fiascos involving mayors. The Tangalle case where a tourist was killed and his girlfriend manhandled was also an act allegedly involving a mayor. These two and numerous other incidents show how dangerously wrong the country’s politics have become. It is... 


Signing hope

Published : 12:00 am  May 7, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  921 views  |  

The Action Committee for Media Freedom, a collective of media organisations, has started a petition to push Sri Lanka’s reluctant Government towards much-needed right to information legislation. The right to information is a universally-acknowledged but rarely legally implemented need. In countries that have particularly vulnerable political situations, it is even less followed. But Sri Lanka remains one of the few countries in the region that so far has not moved even a step forward on such crucial legislation. For example, it took decades for the Indian Government to pass its Right To Information (RTI) Act in Parliament. It was finally managed in 2005 after a long road of negotiations and... 


Adding up poor math skills

Published : 12:18 am  May 6, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  671 views  |  

THERE are many reasons for a student to be bad at math, including poor learning environments, attention disorders and anxiety. Successive years have shown that Sri Lanka’s educators are failing at teaching math, resulting in a staggering 43% of students who sat the last Ordinary Level exams failing, and giving a glimpse at a much larger problem. The low quality of math instruction in Sri Lanka’s schools, a decades-long battle over how math should be taught, and the general belief among educators that math is only important for some to learn, are partly is to blame for this problem, say experts. Despite Sri Lanka’s illiteracy levels being low, it is questionable just how high reading abilities... 


Mixed blessings?

Published : 12:00 am  May 5, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  2,221 views  |  

The weather gods bring mixed blessings. While landslide warnings are issued, a twinkle of hope emerges as consumers hope rains mean the end to the fuel surcharge on electricity bills. However, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) insists that the rains are nowhere near the needed level raising more questions about Sri Lanka’s energy policy. According to the CEB, water levels at the reservoirs stood between 18% and 26% of their capacity this week but levels should be maintained at 60% to 65% to generate enough hydroelectricity and remove the fuel adjustment charge. CEB figures show that it spent Rs. 23.5 billion to produce thermal power from January to April, Rs. 41.7 billion to buy power from... 


Track tales

Published : 12:00 am  May 3, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  4,817 views  |  

This week tragedy struck when two trains collided in Pothuhera, injuring as many as 75 people and critically injuring four. Struggling under public criticism, Railway officials have sought to deal with the blame by appointing an investigative team and suspending five workers who were on duty during the time of the disaster. Successive accidents over the past 14 years prove how ineffective authorities have been at preventing accidents and improving railway safety in Sri Lanka. On 19 August 2001 a train derailed because of high speed and overcrowding, killing 46 between Alawwa and Rambukkana. In January 2002 the Intercity Express heading to Colombo from Kandy derailed near Rambukkana, causing more... 


Check list on May Day

Published : 12:24 am  May 2, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  625 views  |  

In his customary message to mark May Day, President Mahinda Rajapaksa focused on sustainable development embracing the country, rapid development and of course his confidence that workers will stand against “international conspiracies.” Standard themes that have long become a parade lauding the ruling party rather than celebrating the daily fight of the common man. Readers will remember exactly one year ago the pervading theme was the increase in electricity prices. As a May Day boon of sorts Rajapaksa agreed to allow the lowest charges to remain the same, theoretically providing relief to the poorest segment of consumers. However, the fuel adjustment surcharge that was introduced by the... 


May Day!

Published : 12:00 am  May 1, 2014  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  910 views  |  

MAY Day is for the workers. Therefore it is the best time to take into account the hardships as well as duties that are the birthright, so to speak, of every worker. Sri Lanka is well-known for its pro-employee labour laws, which have been kept largely unchanged, during the last few decades. However, the environment those laws were to operate in have changed drastically over the same amount of time, making legal frameworks unproductive. Even though times have changed, the power of collective bargaining has not. Trade unions remain one of the strongest bodies in Sri Lanka and possibly the only one to regularly thwart the Government and get their way. Whether it is in removing a corrupt Postmaster... 


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