- Tourism Minister says money will go to concessions approved by Cabinet, but not yet granted
- Registered tourist hotels allowed to settle their water, electricity bills for period from 1 March to 31 August in 12 instalments from 1 Sept.
- Says other low interest loans being given to pay salaries etc.
By Chandani Kirinde
The Finance Ministry is in the process of obtaining a $ 100 million concessionary loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for small and medium enterprises within the tourism industry, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told Parliament
on Tuesday. Responding to a question raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa in Parliament on measures the Government has put in place to assist the ailing tourist industry, Ranatunga said the money will be used to provide the concessions that had been approved by the Cabinet memorandum dated 10 June but are yet to be granted.
Detailing the measures that have already been put in place, Ranatunga said Cabinet has approved a proposal to allow registered tourist hotels to settle their water and electricity bills for the period from 1 March to 31 August in 12 instalments from 1 September.
He said the Ceylon Electricity Board and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board have been requested not to disconnect supply to these places until such time.
A Cabinet memorandum submitted regarding granting of concessions to the tourism industry following the COVID-19 pandemic, was approved on 10 June and among the relief measures put in place are loans granted at 4% interest for the payment of salaries of employees of tourist hotels, destination management companies and travel agents registered with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority as at March 2019, amounting to Rs. 20, 000 each for a period of six months.
He said the loan granted by State banks is based on EPF/ETF records and has a grace period of two years and should be paid-off in five years.
Cabinet has also approved a proposal to grant a loan facility to pay up to Rs. 15,000 each per month for six months to employees of restaurants, tourist friendly dining establishments, fitness centers, aquatic centres and spas and other establishments registered under the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), the Minister said.
He added that SLTDA has also granted a one-time allowance of Rs 20, 000 to 1,832 tourist guides registered with the authority. “SLTDA has already granted Rs.15, 000 one-time allowance to chauffeur guides registered with the authority. Cabinet approval is due to be obtained to grant this one-time allowance to chauffeur guides who have not registered with the SLTDA by expediting their registration with the authority,” he added.
“Though the Opposition claims their Government granted sweeping concessions to those in the tourism industry who were hit by the Easter attacks, in reality, whenever we have sat down with industry representatives, they all say the same thing as soon as discussions begin. They say that though the then Government promised many concessions, they received none of these. They keep appealing to us not to act like the previous Government and to follow through on promises to aid them,” Ranatunga said.