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Rs. 27 b losses in excise revenue due to COVID situation, COPA told



The Government has lost Rs. 27 billion in excise revenue this year due to the current COVID situation, Commissioner General of Excise M.J. Gunasiri has informed the Committee meeting on Public Accounts (COPA). He said that although the projected revenue of the Excise Department this year was Rs. 160 billion, it was difficult to achieve it in the current situation.

He made these remarks at the COPA meeting held to inquire into the Auditor General’s Report for 2019 and the current performance of the Excise Department. COPA is chaired by MP Tissa Vitharana.

Although the Excise Department, the Customs Department and the Inland Revenue Department had made recommendations at a COPA meeting in 2019 to set up a computer system that would be interconnected, the committee discussed at length that it had not yet been implemented.

While the committee emphasised the need to implement a computer software system to correct the process of calculating the Excise Revenue of the Department, attention was also drawn to the fact that the project had not been implemented properly despite the allocation made in the Budget and Supplements for 2016 and 2018.

Gunasiri informed the committee that work had already started on installing a computer system. He was then directed by the committee to provide a time frame for the installation of this computer system, along with a defined plan, before Nov 5.

Delays in the provision of safety stickers for liquor bottles and liquor-related products and the delay in the development of a secure sticker management system were also discussed at this meeting aimed at increasing Government revenue.

Excise officials said that the process had been delayed due to factors such as the need to implement digital technology by major manufacturing companies and the prevailing COVID situation. The COPA Chairman instructed officials of the Excise Department to expedite this process.

State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna stated that the above projects should be expedited in order to obtain the proper revenue due to the Excise Department, which is the third highest revenue earner for the Government.

The Committee strongly emphasised the need to expedite the implementation of these recommendations made by COPA without further delay.

State Ministers Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Prasanna Ranaweera and MPs Tissa Attanayake, Ashok Abeysinghe, Upul Galappaththi, Weerasumana Weerasinghe, Faizal Cassim and B.Y.G. Ratnasekera, Secretary to the Treasury and Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle were present at the meeting held.

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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine



Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours



Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today



by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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