Ending the tax burden | Daily News

Ending the tax burden

The assurance given by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as Finance Minister on Wednesday, that the people will no more be subjected to excessive taxes, would be welcomed by all citizens irrespective of political affiliations. Assuming duties at his Ministry, Premier Rajapaksa said that in the light of the high Cost of Living (due to excessive taxes) the Government will provide relief to the public. He noted that both direct and indirect taxes have caused a complex situation.

It goes without saying that a Government cannot run a country without taxes. It is through taxes that the salaries of Government teachers, the Forces, Government doctors, public pensions, etc. are paid. In short it is through public taxes that the entire administrative machinery is run. However, taxing should be rational and imposed in a manner that would not burden the public. The previous regime levied taxes willy nilly with even essential items being subjected to unconscionable taxes. This is exactly what Premier Rajapaksa is seeking to redress by levying taxes in a way that the people will not feel the pinch - mala nothala ron gannawa (taking the sap without trampling the flower), as the local idiom he quoted would better explain.

The PM, who was Finance Minister for the entire duration of his ten year Presidency, it may be recalled, never imposed harsh tax measures that would have made a dent in the home budget. He ordered the immediate removal of the fuel tax imposed on electricity bills which was becoming unbearable to the people. One can rest assured, therefore, that he would similarly ease the COL burden which at present has become unbearable.

Typically, Premier Rajapaksa has also laid firm emphasis on reviving local industries which were allowed to go into wrack and ruin by the policies of the UNP which traditionally promoted foreign enterprises. The PM also spoke of reducing unwarranted imports so that the people would once again turn to local products which anyway they had survived on for centuries. The drain in foreign exchange due to across-the-board imports contributed largely towards the current economic crisis. The uncontrolled imports of items that are locally produced in abundance also dealt a body blow to the vegetable and fruit farmer forcing them to destroy their crop for want of a market.

The Premier said that since everything is imported the local farmer had been unfairly treated. In future priority will be given to local products by which the country would be made self-sufficient to give the local farmer more opportunities.

The PM is only too aware that the bulk of the massive vote which the SLPP received at the February 10 Local Government election came from the farmers and the rural community in general who were ignored by the UNP. Hence, the emphasis he has laid towards uplifting the rural economy through the development and upgrading of rural industries which had been allowed to wither away.

The Premier was also insistent that all sectors have to play an active role in resurrecting the economy from the dumps to which it had fallen.”We have to implement an economic policy which could improve all sectors, including exports, tourism and foreign employment. Local and foreign investors would have to play the key role in this process,” he went on to emphasize.

Motorists, nay the entire public, no doubt, will applaud the move by the Prime Minister to scrap the

mila sootheray, the so called price formula devised for petroleum by the former Government which became the butt end of many a joke to most. The recent periodic fuel price hikes, no doubt, had a major bearing on the COL and also the price of domestic LP Gas which even drove up the price of a plain tea of those doing the hard grind. The public will expect the Premier to grant them some relief on this score by reducing the prices of fuel and Gas whenever there is a drop in the World Market prices.

The Prime Minister, in his address, vowed to offer relief covering all segments of the public. Among those who will look up to the Premier for relief, no doubt, will be the pensioners and retirees of the private sector who depend on their terminal benefits such as the EPF for their survival. Disproportionate taxes are levied by commercial banks by way of the debit tax for withdrawals.

These folk depend solely on their savings for their medical and other needs that arise in old age. Newspapers in their “readers’ columns” often publish the lamentations of these sections who served their country well for decades and are now in the evening of their lives. They would be ever grateful to the Prime Minister if some form of relief could be offered to them in this regard. There are also complaints that the special interest rate offered to senior citizens for deposits totaling Rs. 1.5 million under the former regime is not being paid by some banks. This too should be looked into without delay.


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