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CAA a poor replacement for PUCSL, says LPVSS

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Given that the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) had completely failed to control the prices of essential items; it was highly unlikely that they would be able to fill the shoes of Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), Lanka Podu Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya (LPVSS) yesterday said commenting on reports that some responsibilities of the PUCSL would be transferred to the CAA after the former’s dissolution.

Secretary of the LPVSS Kasun Boteju told The Island that the dissolution of the PUCSL would have disastrous consequences on consumers of electricity.

“The PUCSL did a relatively good job in protecting consumers. It was interested in regulating the electricity sector, which we all know is one of the most corrupt sectors. PUCSL managed to prevent the purchasing of emergency power, at high rates, on a number of occasions.”.

Boteju said there was a concerted effort by certain sections to rid the sector of a regulator. The absence of a regulator would allow the electricity mafia to sign emergency power purchase agreements at their whims and fancies.

“There are people who try to convince policymakers that the PUCSL is a hindrance to rapid implementation of power projects. This is false. When the CEB presented the generation plans, the PUCSL only objected to a few projects, but some members of the CEB used it as an excuse not to carry out any project. One must wonder why this is. Why are certain projects so important to certain officials?”

He said that although the government wanted to dissolve the PUCSL, it had also not provided an alternative. The electricity sector, like other utilities, needed a regulator to prevent a few senior officials, businessmen and politicians from making disastrous deals whose burden will be passed on to customers, while they amass massive wealth, Boteju said.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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