(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Minister of Labor and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara said today that a decision to increase the duty free allowances for goods purchased at the airport by migrant workers has been taken depending on the amount of money they have remitted.
Addressing the media at the Ministry premises, Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said this measure will be implemented from May 1, and accordingly, migrant workers will be entitled to additional duty concessions based on the amount of money they have sent.
These concessions will be implemented under five categories and workers who have sent an amount between USD 2,400 – 4,799 can get an additional duty free allowance of USD 600. Workers who have remitted between USD 4,800 and 7,199 will be entitled to an additional duty relief of USD 960. Workers who remitted between USD 7,200 and USD 11,999 will receive an additional duty free allowance of USD 1,440.
Migrant workers who have remitted between USD 12,000 and USD 23,999 are eligible for an additional USD 2,400 duty free allowance and workers who have remitted USD 24,000 or more are eligible for an additional USD 4,800 duty free allowance when purchasing goods at the airport.
Anyone who has sent the above mentioned amount of monies through official channels to the country within a period of one year is eligible for this relief.
From May 1, 2022 onwards, migrant workers who have legally sent money through the banking system will be able to get this relief and the amount of money sent within a period of one year will be considered for this purpose. The minister also mentioned that the increase of these duty concessions will continue.
Commenting further the minister said when the country collapsed economically, the remittances by foreign workers decreased and by last May, the amount of foreign remittances had dropped to USD 200 million.
“At that time Wahala and Undiyal systems were used by workers more when sending money to the country. At that time, there was a serious issue regarding the treatment of expatriate workers. There was a big political campaign to stop sending money to Sri Lanka. Also, there was distrust on the part of the workers that their money would be taken. We have done a lot of work to solve these. We started working as a government to encourage expatriate workers to send money to the country legally through the banking system.”
He further said that a program was prepared to give due respect and proper treatment to the expatriate worker.
“We opened a dedicated entrance for migrant workers called ‘The Hope Gate’ at the airport. We were able to do some work for the children of expatriate workers. Likewise, we implemented a program to educate expatriate workers without using government resources urging them to send 500 million dollars. “
“We got Cabinet approval to allow migrant workers import an electric vehicle, gave housing loans, and more tax concessions. Now only expatriate workers are allowed to import electric vehicles into the country. Because of this, the country has received seven million dollars. A decision has also been taken to extend the period given to foreign workers to import electric vehicles.”
“After a long discussion with the Foreign Employment Bureau, the Central Bank, Customs, and all the banks, we are able to provide low interest loans to the expatriate workers,” he said adding that the board of directors’ approval for that has been given.
“We have also introduced a method of giving gift vouchers based on the amount of money sent by the foreign worker to the country.”
These steps have been taken to encourage expatriate workers to legally send money to the country through the banking system.
“Our goal is to increase the monthly amount of foreign exchange sent by expatriate workers to one billion dollars. The amount of foreign exchange sent annually by India’s expatriate workers has increased to 100 billion dollars. In such a situation, it is not a difficult goal to bring in a billion dollars monthly from Sri Lanka’s expatriate workers.”
“We are taking every possible step to ensure that the dollars sent by expatriate workers are put to good use for the country. That is why the anti-corruption act is brought. A Productivity Commission will be formed and from now on we will stop spending money to build towers according to political needs. Investments are made only after paying attention to the effectiveness of the investments.”
No tax is charged for foreign worker remittances and the money held in the banks in the form of foreign exchange, the Minister said.
The Director of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Dr. B.H.P.K. Tillakaweera and officials of the Customs Department and representatives of commercial banks were also present.