NCC calls for revenue policy consistency
By Kamal Kandewatta
Though the 2018 Budget includes promising proposals for a progressive future, the National Chamber of Commerce (NCC) of Sri Lanka asserted that the Government had once again lost revenue consistency, signalling that it was an election-oriented Budget. Speaking at a Post Budget Conference, NCC President, S. Samaraweera asserted, "We are happy that next year's Budget has taken initiatives to support SMEs, promote more young entrepreneurships and promote Information and Technology industry (IT) in the country".
"However, as it has always happened, the Government's consistency in revenue collection is lost in this Budget too as in the past. This is a major issue. Because taxes such as the Super Gains Tax could always come under various titles which makes it difficult for the business community to make consistent future plans", Samaraweera lamented.
He also noted,"It is better if the Government could plan revenue policies for the medium or long-term, rather than planning for short-term revenue collection".
On the day before the Budget proposals were announced, the Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera announced a cut down in indirect taxes on several essential goods, which would cost the Government a staggering Rs1.5 Billion monthly.
Deputy President of NCC, N. Buddhipala answering a question noted, "This time around too, proper criteria to get people into the tax net has not been formulated in the Budget proposals".
However, by encouraging those in the informal sector to join the formal sector by providing competitive salaries will be important to get more direct taxes according to Buddhipala.
Another important aspect expressed by NCC experts was that "Even though some people considered the Budget as being a basket of concessions, the Budget is not merely a collection of concessions but envisaged expenditure and revenue of the country".
As the NCC pointed out, progressive proposals included in next year's Budget were mainly covers supporting SMEs, promoting female and youth entrepreneurship and supporting the IT industry.
According to the Budget proposal, under the sub theme 'Creating the Next Generation of Local Entrepreneurs', the Government has proposed to undertake a number of initiatives to promote SMEs and ensure financial facilities to SMEs without any strict restrictions.
In addition, encouraging Sri Lankan women and youth to set new businesses through the 'Enterprise Sri Lanka Credit Scheme'' was another important pledge.
The Budget has also stressed on the IT industry and is expecting to invest Rs 3 billion to achieve $ 5 billion exports from the industry within the next five years.
The Government came in for praise for the promises towards the further facilitation of trade by bringing down para-tariff and implementing Anti-Dumping and Countervailing laws.
NCC also remarked that some promises such as 'Restructuring the Board of Investment as a single window' to facilitate foreign investments rather than being a regulator was an ongoing repetitive clause in almost all recent Budget speeches but were yet to be implemented.
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