(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Hon. (Dr.) Harsha de Silva, Member of Parliament instructed the Auditor General’s Department to calculate the amount of wheat flour currently available in Sri Lanka’s warehouses and submit an audit report regarding the issue pertaining to Wheat flour within 2 months. The Parliamentarian was of the view that if there is a price formula for wheat Flour as well, there will be no opportunity to decide the prices according to the wishes of individual parties.
This was discussed when the Committee on Public Finance met recently under the Chairmanship of Hon. (Dr.) Harsha de Silva, Member of Parliament.
The Members of the Committee pointed out that Wheat Flour is being sold at different prices in shops all over Sri Lanka. However, according to the prices given by the Ministry of Finance, one kilo of Wheat Flour can be sold for 198 rupees. The Chair emphasized that two price calculations are being used in setting the price of Wheat Flour and this should be changed.
Although the price has increased due to the increase in the tax imposed on Wheat Flour, the Chair stated to the officials that the increased tax has increased the price of the Wheat Flour that was already in the warehouses of the country.
Recalling the efforts made to prepare a price formula for gas and milk powder last season, the chairman pointed out the dire need of a price formula for regulating the price of wheat. The Committee emphasized that a price formula should be prepared immediately in order to work in a more diversified manner.
Furthermore, under the Singapore-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement, the Committee on Public Finance approved the reduction of taxes on many other goods. It was approved when the Resolution under the Customs Ordinance published under the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2338/54 was discussed on June 30th, 2023.
Under the said, it was proposed to reduce the tax rate which was 15% to 5%. Granting approval for the said, the Committee questioned the officials regarding the benefits of this trade agreement. However, the official responding to the said stated that it was not possible to conduct a feasibility study. Expressing his displeasure, the Chair instructed the chief officer in charge of the Singapore-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement to submit a report to the Committee within 6 weeks, presenting logical facts about the agreement.
Resolutions under the Customs Ordinance published under the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2336/72 on 16th June 2023 was further reviewed for a second time. However, the Committee decided not to approve the proposal made under this Gazette. Here, the officials presented a proposal to change the HS code related to the import of raw materials required for soap production. The Committee questioned whether there will be an increase in tax rates on the import of the relevant raw materials. Accordingly, the Chair pointed out that it is questionable for one group of the government to request for the approval to reduce tax and another group to request to increase taxes. In the year 2021, it was revealed to the Committee that no new investment has been made during that period, even though the tax charges have been reduced in the import of raw materials required for soap production. Accordingly, the Chair instructed the concerned officials to conduct a discussion under the leadership of the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to formulate a policy on tax revision and submit it to the committee.
Furthermore, 2 other gazettes submitted for the Committee’s approval regarding the tax revision under the Special Commodity Levy Act No. 48 of 2007 were approved.
Meanwhile, the Committee discussed the current status of the process related to the establishment of a Gambling Regulatory Authority. Officials stated that they have discussed with several organizations in Singapore and Sri Lanka and have prepared a draft. However, before preparing a final Bill, the Chair instructed the officials to refer the draft to the Committee on Public Finance for approval. Accordingly, the Committee was instructed to provide a comparative report within two weeks pertaining to the existing system in Singapore and the model expected to be created in Sri Lanka regarding the establishment of a Gambling Regulatory Authority.
Furthermore, the Committee instructed the Sri Lanka Board of Investment to submit a detailed report including the amount of investment and its benefits in the last period.
Moreover, during the discussion regarding other matters taken up at the Committee, Hon. Nimal Lanza, Member of Parliament questioned the Sri Lanka Board of Investment regarding the decision made to import palm trees from a foreign country and add value to them and re-export them to India. The Member of Parliament stated that there is a danger of this matter developing into a diplomatic concern. Accordingly, the Parliamentarian requested the Sri Lanka Investment Board to inform the other parties concerned to reconsider the decision.
State Minister Hon. (Dr.) Suren Raghavan, Members of Parliament Hon. Rauff Hakeem, Hon. Patali Champika Ranawaka, Hon. Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Hon. Nimal Lanza, Hon. Harshana Rajakaruna, Hon. Madhura Withanage were present at the Committee meeting held.