11 December, 2023


Financial Crisis As Seen By A Non-Economist 

By Upatissa Pethiyagoda

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

Almost exactly one year ago, I made some suggestions that the authorities may wish to consider as means for increasing State revenue. Nothing noticeable came of it! It maybe that devoid of intricate economic jargon, it would have been dismissed as the meanderings of a simplistic yokel! If I may be excused for a slight diversion. I was seated next to a highly venerated medical teacher, whose hearing was less than perfect, at a technical lecture. He would from to time in a somewhat audible whisper, ask “What is that fellow saying.” I obliged as best as I could, with a brief precis each time. At the end of it all, he remarks “His must have been a damned good lecture, because I could not understand a word of what the fellow was talking about”. As I listen to the many words spoken (or written) about the intricacies of our financial plight, I feel much the same way as the Dear Professor in my yarn would have, It must all be very important, as generally, I don’t understand much more than a word, here and there. 

But, to briefly summarize what I then wrote;

1. Widen the Income Tax net, particularly in fairness, tax those who can afford to pay and relieve the poorer sections of our society. Needless to say, the mesh of such net must be robust enough to trap the sharks before catching the minnows. Improve performance of IRD, to deter evasion and speed up settlement (some incomplete files are said to have remained idle for up to twelve years).

2. Review the VAT collection system to ensure effective monitoring and to prevent it becoming another ruse for businesses to rip off their customers. 

3. Ensure that the allegedly enormous wealth said to have been held by the LTTE, be properly collected and accounted for. There are ugly stories relating to mishandling enormous quantities of gold and jewellery extorted by the LTTE from civilians fleeing Jaffna and the suburbs.

4. No repetition of the alleged utterly disgusting pilfering of the Tsunami Funds should be allowed to happen. “Vanity Projects”, be they Harbors, Airports, Conference halls, Botanical Gardens, or family memorials constructed at State expense should be scrutinized for possible irregularities and the miscreants appropriately punished One hopes to heaven that the much hyped Port City will not be an addition to the never-ending catalogue of failures.

5. State run Lotteries and similar Gambling Schemes (quite apart from morality concerns), are a bonanza for the crooked. They are a cruel deception of the unsuspecting poor, and a “Kapruka” for the crooked.

6. The most inscrutable of all, is the lethargy in acting on the highly obvious matter of dealing with offenders who are keeping monies (legitimate or criminal) in overseas accounts and investments. This is certainly not for the lack of means to track them. Bribes and commissions and similar illegal gratifications and failure to repatriate proceeds from export earnings, are very large and not too difficult to track, if there is a will.to do so.

It is astonishing that the points above, which are so easy for anyone to see, have been, for some reason apparently not been pursued diligently. Maybe this is being done but discreetly for honorable and good reason. 

The above points have no claim to originality or being fully inclusive. They are merely offered as a humble and possible help in drawing us out of this bottomless pit.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 3

    I can add to your list of ideas for increasing state revenue, Mr. Pethiyagoda!

    There is a big demand in the international labour market for skilled and semiskilled workers, such as in the shipping, shipbuilding, mining, transport and construction industries. In the construction industry alone, there is a need for electricians, plumbers, services technicians (e.g., HVAC), bar-benders, shuttering carpenters, bulldozer, excavator, backhoe, trench digger and crane operators, not to mention heavy vehicle drivers.

    We can demobilize about 50 percent of our armed forces, give them proper training in various trades and send them abroad on foreign employment so they can send a part of their foreign currency earnings home to help revive our tanked economy. That would channel the energies of these servicemen in some constructive and productive activity and also serve as a real indicator of patriotism.

    Presently most of the servicemen stationed in the North and East expend all their efforts in grabbing and occupying private lands, running businesses in competition with the local citizens, and generally harassing them. It would be a refreshing change if they can work abroad and contribute to the national wealth instead of simply consuming it and making a nuisance of themselves!

    • 0

      The transport sector – ports, airports and TRAINS are now being targeted, with cyber ops to break up and Privatize the public transport system with the IMF Firesale of Railway lands as was initiatlly planned during the MCC project!
      This is why the train to Jaffna has been stopped and in the first week of the year the train system is in a manufactured crisis to create transport and goods supply problems and stage Famine!

      Instead of importing eggs. GoSL should have an ‘eat Fish from Lankan oceans for Protein’ campaign and ban Japanese, French and EU trawlers stealing fish in the SOUTHERN waters.
      Sri Lanka must INDUSTRIALIZE its fisheries which are now ‘artisanal’ — so that the EU, France, Korea etc can loot Lanka’s fish.
      Also develop a Mineral Industry with value addition and transfer of Technology as the country has valuable Rare Earth minerals – Graphite, Zircon, Titanium, Illmanite, Phosphates that are exported as sand for a Song!
      Sri Lanka’s Marine resources should be bringing in 70 percent of export income. Sri Lanka needs a State-Led plan to leverage its Marine and Mineral Resouces and also tax the Submarine Data cable operators that use the Marine Exclusive economic zone Sea bed, and their clients.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.