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Finance Secretary acknowledges concerns about national economy



Committee on Public Finance meeting in progress (pic courtesy Parliament)

Tax evasion dominates Public Finance Committee meet

On behalf of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Dr. Harsha de Silva has inquired from Secretary to the Ministry of Finance. Dr.  S.R. Attygalle whether the country is facing an economic crisis as claimed by Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila at a meeting of the Committee on Public Finance in Parliament on Monday. 

The Finance Secretary has replied that in spite of certain economic problems that might arise given the current situation, every effort will be made to manage the economy. This was said at the meeting of the Committee on Public Finance, chaired by senior parliamentarian  Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.

The following is the text of a statement issued by the Communications Department of the Parliament, yesterday, regarding Monday’s CPF meeting.”The Committee on Public Finance granted approval on Monday to issue Rs. 1,000 billion Treasury Bills, under the Local Treasury Bills Ordinance which is scheduled to be presented to Parliament for approval by the Hon. Minister of Finance.

The Committee on Public Finance chaired by Anura Pryadarshana Yapa met yesterday (21) in Parliament. Government officials were connected online for the meeting in accordance with health regulations given the prevailing COVID-19 situation.

State Minister Susil Premajayantha, and Members of Parliament Dilan Perera, Prof. Ranjith Bandara, Mujibur Rahman, Dr. Harsha de Silva, Anupa Pasqual, Isuru Dodangoda, Nalin Fernando were present at the Committee meeting held.

Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle expressing his views stated that an increase to Rs 3,000 billion from the current limit of Rs. 2000 billion is thus expected.

He  said that this does not imply that the money will be spent within the coming 06 months and that everything will be managed within the borrowing limit approved by the Parliament.

The Committee also approved two regulations to be tabled in Parliament under the, No. 1 of 1969 Imports and Exports (Control) Act presented to Parliament on 08.06.2021.

Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance further stated that given the context where tax relief has been granted for imported vehicles under the category of special purpose vehicles, this opportunity given is often misused.

The Secretary pointed out that the Government incur a great loss in terms of tax revenue as it has now been identified that vehicles imported under the category of special purpose vehicles are being used as ordinary purpose vehicles.

He further explained that last year alone, 947 freezer trucks were imported and that it has been reported that most of the imported freezer trucks remove the refrigerators after importation and used them as ordinary lorries. Accordingly, steps have been taken to revise the relevant taxes by these regulations.

Expressing views, Parliamentarian Nalin Fernando stated that a situation of tax evasion on technical matters pertaining to the margarine importation has also risen. The Secretary to the Ministry of Finance told the Committee that this is expected to be done in the future under a new methodology.

Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva, inquired from the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance regarding a statement made by the Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila regarding notion that the country is currently in an economic crisis. Responding to it the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance stated that despite certain economic concerns that may arise given the current situation, every effort will be made to manage such concerns properly.

Further, the proposal to increase the salaries and allowances of the members including the Chairman of the Office of the Missing Persons which was rejected at the last Committee meeting was approved at the Committee meeting held yesterday after taking all factors into consideration.



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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that the IMF Executive Board approved Sri Lanka’s program under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The program will allow Sri Lanka to access financing of up to US$ 7 billion from the IMF, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and multilateral organizations.

This is a historic milestone for the country as the Government seeks to restore macroeconomic stability and achieve debt sustainability. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka received IMF-compatible financing assurances from its official creditors, including Paris Club members, India and China, allowing the IMF to convene an Executive Board and consider Sri Lanka’s request for a loan. The program is expected to provide much-needed policy space to drive the economy out of the unprecedented challenges and instill confidence amongst all the stakeholders.

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MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium



Ali Sabry responds to accusations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.

Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).

The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.

Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.

At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.

Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.

The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.

“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.

Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.

Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.

Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.

Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.

MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.

Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations.  The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.

 In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “

The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.

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No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister



By Ifham Nizam

The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).  “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.

“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.

The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.

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