Verité Research hosted an expert commentary on the budget speech immediately after it was presented to parliament on November 12, 2021. The commentary focused on the promises stated in the budget speech along with analytical insights from PublicFinance.lk.
▪ According to the values given in the budget speech, revenue is expected to grow by 46% to LKR 2,284 billion in 2022. Several new taxes and tax increases are proposed in this regard: surcharge tax on profits, social security contribution, and financial VAT.
▪ Even if the projected contribution from the new revenue measures (LKR 333 billion) is considered realistic, the rest of the revenue base would need to grow by 24% in 2022 – at least double the expected nominal GDP growth – to achieve the expected revenue target. The discussion concluded that the estimated revenue growth of 46% was highly ambitious.
▪ Whilst several panellists agreed that weak revenue generation is a critical constraint in the Sri Lankan economy, efforts to improve digitalisation of the tax system and other administrative improvements were highlighted by some panellists.
▪ Similarities between the super gain tax introduced in the 2015 interim budget and the newly introduced surcharge tax were discussed. The tax is expected to bring a revenue of LKR 100 billion. However, due to its one-off nature, this tax will not be a sustainable solution to the structural revenue constraints in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it is a retrospective tax that will undermine the government’s stated objective of creating a stable and predictable tax regime.
▪ The proposed social security contribution appears similar to NBT tax that was removed in 2020, but the budget projects collection to be around 40% more than the typical annual collection from NBT (LKR 105 billion in 2019). This ambitions projection is in spite of having a tax-free threshold (LKR 120 million per annum) ten times higher than the NBT threshold (LKR 12 million per annum), with implementation occurring only once legislation is passed in April.
▪ Concerns were raised regarding the dampening impact the new taxes may have on investor confidence, particularly since many of the new measures are one-off in nature, and in the case of the surcharge tax, it is retroactive in operation. The misalignment between the allocations provided in the budget speech and the priorities of the economy was highlighted throughout the discussion. The high allocations for defence, road development, and generally high levels of capital expenditure over allocations for education, healthcare, and skill development were identified as being problematic.
▪ The panellists also highlighted that social security should not be limited to Samurdhi payments and should have a wider scope in ensuring the safety and the security of the citizens.
▪ The proposal to include an amendment to the Appropriation Bill preventing requests for Supplementary Estimates for 2022 was viewed in a positive light by the panellists as it would ensure that the deviation from the budgeted and actual expenditure would be minimised.
▪ The failure of the budget to address some of the critical issues facing the economy was also highlighted. The lack of attention to and focus on the management of external debt, the lack of a clear plan to regain access to international capital markets, and the related implications for dollar liquidity in the banking system were identified as shortcomings in this year’s budget.
Renewable energy producers say they can generate more power if govt and CEB support
by Sanath Nanayakkare
In the backdrop of dwindling foreign currency reserves and capacity shortages, the only logical solution for Sri Lanka to take is to adopt renewable energy as the primary source of energy production, Manjula Perera, Secretary of the Wind Power Developers Association said in Colombo yesterday.
He said so speaking at a press conference held at the Hilton Colombo Residencies, convened by the associations of local entrepreneurs who have invested in the development of wind power, small hydro power, ground mounted solar power and bio energy.
Notably, the associations reiterated the fact that they want only the policy support and that they can provide themselves with necessary funding for the projects if the government, CEB and related line ministries act together to remove the bottlenecks which are there for no clear purpose.
“Sri Lanka is currently facing an acute energy crisis, primarily due to the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuel. The solution to this is for the country to move on to more renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, bio-gas, biomass and hydro power. Renewable energy also presents a host of other benefits both socially and economically as well,” Manjula Perera said.
“Renewable energy can be generated using Sri Lanka’s ample natural resources. This would also offer some relief to Sri Lanka’s diminishing foreign reserves as renewable energy does not need to rely on fuel imports,” he noted.
‘However, one of the main issues which the renewable energy sector faces is the government approval process which can take years to complete. This process needs to be streamlined and implemented in an efficient manner as possible. Renewable energy developers also run into a myriad of challenges from the CEB that has delayed approval and grid connections, sometimes attributed to incorrect technical analysis. Bringing correct knowledge and international best practices to the CEB will help sort out these issues,” he pointed out.
Riyaz Sangani, Past President of Hydro Power Developers Association said, “Our goal as the renewable energy sector is to help the government and the people overcome the current energy crisis in the country. We believe that the key to this is to increase co-operation between the government and the private sector. Only then will we be able to successfully overcome all obstacles and make the switch to renewable energy.”
“There are currently a total of 294 private sector renewable energy developer projects which have been commissioned. These projects have combined capacity of 718.334 megawatts (MW). The total number of projects needs to increase drastically, for the country to truly reap the full benefits of renewable energy,” Thusitha Peiris, Small Hydro Power Developers Association President said.
He said that small hydro power projects have been brought to a halt for years now, and today the need is ever more acute for local entrepreneurs to be allowed to restart investing in this sector in a conducive operating environment.
“Another issue that has hampered the success of the renewable energy sector is the importation restrictions imposed on the sector, which has made it difficult to obtain the machinery necessary,” the associations said.
“In addition to the immediate benefits which the country will receive, renewable energy sources also pose less of a risk to the climate and environment. This will help protect the environment and ensure that the country’s development will not be hindered by any environmental issues in the future,” they observed.
“There have been many local and foreign investors who have shown interest in investing in renewable energy for Sri Lanka. These investors need to be shown that it is a worthwhile investment and that hindrances will be minimal. Only then can Sri Lanka overcome its socio-economic woes and continue with development,” they pointed out.
Cargills Online becomes first ecommerce platform to integrate LANKAQR
Cargills Online has become the first and currently the only e-commerce platform in Sri Lanka to integrate LANKAQR for delivery thereby providing greater convenience to its customer base together with its wide merchandise offering. LANKAQR is a project initiative from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to ensure all QR codes and QR based transactions in Sri Lanka are standardized and interoperable.
How many of us have ordered groceries online and not received most of the order? Cargills Online revolutionised the grocery supply chain in Sri Lanka by introducing the dark store to solve this issue. Cargills Online offers the freshest produce and one of the range of products, providing a convenient, hassle-free delivery where customers can order weekly groceries in less than 2 minutes. Deliveries are efficiently carried out by professional delivery agents with consistent on time delivery. The dedicated customer experience team ensures that higher customer satisfaction at all times. In addition to LANKAQR, Cargills Online also offers cash and card on delivery and online payments. Cargills Online can be accessed via the App available on Android & iOS and the website https://cargillsonline.com/. Customers can use the mobile app or visit the website and select LANKAQR as the payment method. When the Cargills team delivers the order, the customer can use any payment app to make the payment using LANKAQR. Even if the payment option is selected as “Card On Delivery” or “Cash On Delivery”, the customer can pay via LANKAQR once the goods arrive.
Namal Rajapaksa – Minister of Youth & Sports, Minister of Development Co-ordination and Monitoring and State Minister of Digital Technology and Enterprise Development stated, “Sri Lanka is currently undergoing a revolution as we aim to deploy the latest technology so that we can increase financial inclusion in the country, strengthen trade and drive the economy towards prosperity. I am excited to see Cargills Ceylon coming forward to support us in this national effort. LANKAQR is one such initiative that we have conceptualized with the support of the Central Bank and Lanka Clear. A notable fact is that LANKAQR was entirely developed by using Sri Lankan expertise.”
From left: Senarath Bandara – Managing Director /CEO, Cargills Bank, Ranjit Page – Deputy Chairman / Group CEO, Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, D Kumaratunge – Assistant Governor, Central bank Of Sri Lanka, Ajith Nivard Cabraal – Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Yohan Samuel- Delivery Agent, Cargills Online, Sanjeewa Premawaradana – General Manger / IT, Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, Asanka Mahanama – Senior Manager – IT, Cargills (Ceylon) PLC and Roshan Dilruk – Operations Manager, Cargills Online
Ajith Nivard Cabraal – Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka commented, “The Central Bank of Sri Lanka introduced LANKAQR in partnership with LankaClear to fast track Sri Lanka’s journey towards becoming a cashless society while also boosting financial inclusion. SMEs are the engine of growth in the country and it is important for us to give them all the resources and support necessary to achieve their fullest potential. I thank Cargills Ceylon for joining hands with us to take this technology to its large, island wide customer base.”
Asoka Pieris – Managing Director Cargills Foods Company (Pvt) Ltd, “Cargills’ continued commitment and passion to improve the lives of all Sri Lankans led us to Cargills Online and ensured that customers can continue to purchase groceries at home while still enjoying the supermarket experience. By integrating LANKAQR, our valued customers will have even more flexibility when it comes to paying for their goods. We are proud to be the first and currently the only e-commerce platform in Sri Lanka to integrate LANKAQR for delivery.”
LANKAQR was introduced by the Central Bank together with licensed financial institutions and LankaClear (Pvt) Ltd with the aim of moving Sri Lanka towards a less-cash society and increasing financial inclusion across the country. LANKAQR allows customers to make payments, directly from their bank accounts to accounts of merchants or service providers, using payment apps of LANKAQR certified financial institutions. LANKAQR is a low-cost digital payment solution, which primarily targets small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Brantel appointed Sri Lanka distributor for ‘Oukitel’ and ‘Blackview’ smartphones
Brantel Lanka Limited, the company that built the E-tel mobile phone brand in Sri Lanka, has secured the distributorship of two other smartphone brands that are in popular use in 80 countries worldwide, including in European hotspots.
With the appointment as the authorised distributor for the China manufactured ‘Oukitel’ and ‘Blackview’ smartphones, Brantel will initially retail select models of these warranty-backed phones which are known for their durability, exceptional battery life, high Random Access Memory (RAM) and Read Only Memory (ROM) capacities, superb cameras and the latest features including secure biometric authentication.
With both these brands, Brantel continues with its strategy of providing specifications and performance that match the latest smartphones in the market without the price tag associated with leading global brand names, the Company said.
Among the Oukitel models Brantel Lanka will offer is the C21 which is powered by a P60 octa-core processor that results in maximum operational speed and is known for its pro camera with an unprecedented 20 MP hole punch that enables the taking of high-quality selfies. Another is the entry level Oukitel C19 model which comes in vibrant colours and offers a 6.49-inch immersive HD+ experience in addition to impressive computing power. From Blackview, the company will offer the octa-core 4G fashion smartphone Blackview A90 model in multi colours and the quad camera, ‘budget king’ Blackview A80 Plus model. These models can be purchased at the Brantel showroom, by visiting www.brantelonline.com or its dealers island-wide. Online shoppers can enjoy discounts up to 15% and island-wide delivery, the company said.
Established in 2007, Oukitel is owned by a national high-tech company in China with an advanced and experienced Research & Development team, dedicated production crew, and technical services. Oukitel has a global presence including in countries in Europe, Asia, North and South Americas and has successfully developed over 130 distributors from 60 countries worldwide.
Blackview has an 8,500 square-meter factory in China and its customer base is spread across 80 countries and regions including Russia, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Ukraine, France, Italy, Turkey, Algeria, Colombia and South Africa. It has more than 100 authorised agents in over 80 countries and regions.
Brantel Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. delivers technology and value-added services to more than 2,000 business customers. The Company partners with leading technology brands from around the world to simplify and accelerate sales channels. With expert sales and technical support teams it has serviced its customers for the past 18 years from its branches and dealers island-wide.
Brantel’s range of products from leading global manufacturers include copper and fibre network cables, passive network components, solar inverters, PV modules, point-of-sale thermal printers, and digital smart board solutions. Brantel is also the national distributor for E-tel Mini Computers, Android smartphones, tablets and feature phones and Corning products in Sri Lanka.
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