It’s a Louis Vuitton budget, says Harsha

Saturday, 23 November 2013 09:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Dharisha Bastians The main opposition United National Party yesterday slammed the ruling UPFA Budget for 2014, saying it was aimed at pacifying the super rich while increasing the tax burden on the poor and provided no guidance to improve export performance that would drive economic growth. “The Budget clearly shows where the Government’s priorities lie,” said UNP Spokesman on Economic Affairs and Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva, who addressed a press briefing at the Party’s Headquarters Sirikotha.The Opposition Parliamentarian said the 2014 Budget presented to Parliament by President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday had completely removed import duties on designer brands of apparel including footwear and neckties while increasing food taxes that directly affect the common man by expanding the Special Commodities Levy. Dr. de Silva said that the Government had increased taxes on sugar, salt, dhal and canned fish and on mobile top-ups. Smaller supermarkets had also been netted to pay the supermarket tax by reducing the quarterly turnover of establishments liable to pay from Rs. 500 million to Rs. 250 million in next year’s Budget. The Government’s 2014 Budget has proposed “strengthening the application” of VAT on supermarkets, to rake in an addition Rs. 15 billion from the retailers in the coming year. The UNP MP charged that the Budget for 2014 was aimed at satisfying the so-called Carlton classes, while ignoring the pleas of 99% of the population that does not belong to the super-rich category. “Someone from the royal family recently told a newspaper that he only wears Louis Vuitton shoes and belts – this cess waiver on designer apparel is clearly to satisfy these classes,” Dr. De Silva charged. “Who asked them to remove import duties on designer products? How many of us wear Salvatore Ferragamo neckties and Louis Vuitton shoes? Who cares if there is a tax on those products?” the UNP MP asked. The people were more concerned with being able to afford their essential food items like sugar and dhal, de Silva explained. “No other country in the region taxes food items the way Sri Lanka does,” he said. De Silva said that while eminent economists were in agreement that Sri Lanka’s export performance needed to be enhanced in order to keep economic growth at 8-9%, the 2014 Budget had failed to provide any guidance in this regard. “There is a conflict in objectives in the Budget,” De Silva said, adding that the Government had failed to create a conducive environment for exports despite prescriptions provided to the Treasury by senior economists like Prof. A.D.V. de S. Indraratne. “The Government is focusing on import substitution industries and in the long term this is not a sustainable plan,” he charged. De Silva said that in essence, the Government’s economic policy statement for 2014 was ‘casino class-friendly and anti-people’. The entire Opposition boycotted the Budget presentation in Parliament yesterday.