By 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.