Mind your Business
Don't mess with Messiah
Earlier it were the political hangers on and party loyalists who were rewarded
with the plums of office in the state sector.
But now that a decision has been taken to appoint people with a proven
track record in the private sector to head key state institutions, there
is a different kind of lobbying going on - corporate big wigs sending messages
to ministers that they are "available" to be Messiahs of the state sector.
So much so that the Boss has asked that he be informed before any private
sector players are given any top state posts.
Preying for Big Bird
One deal that is being extensively reviewed by the powers that be these
days is the management of the Bird of Paradise.
The desert boys are keen to bail out of the operation, we hear, but
another bird is equally keen to take over their role.
But those who matter are once bitten twice shy and will keep the reins
in their hands.
Face and cost saving
And then there was the big idea to keep the state retailer open twenty-four-hours-a-day.
That has been done now but the response of consumers has been lukewarm
and even the staff are grumbling that they have to while away their hours
doing virtually nothing.
Now, a face saving way of cancelling the operation is being looked at
Simplified tax scheme in budget
* Reduce taxes as an incentive for growth * Budget to "rectify" economic
* No removal of subsidies * Prima deal to be renegotiated
By Feizal Samath
The United National Front (UNF) government wants to simplify Sri Lanka's
tax structure and suitable amendments for this purpose are expected to
be presented, possibly in the March budget, Finance Minister K.N. Choksy
Taxes, he noted in an interview with The Sunday Times Business, would
be reduced to encourage industrial and commercial growth. "I find the tax
system is in a sense, self-destructive. There is much scope towards simplifying
the tax system by doing away with overlapping taxes."
The minister, who expects to present the new government's first budget
in mid-March preceded by a vote on account in parliament, said the best
tax system is one that applies the "lowest possible rate on the broadest
The customs tariffs system was also complicated and in this context
a uniform and simple tariff structure is being worked out, Choksy said
in one of his first newspaper interviews after the UNF won the December
Asked whether the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST) and National
Security Levy (NSL) would be discontinued, he said no decision has been
made on this but some proposals are being looked at on the lines of what
has been suggested by the IMF. He did not elaborate.
He said the government had obtained a US $ 60.6 million loan from the
ADB to develop industries in rural areas while emphasising that the country
would be settling down to an open market economy on the scale of the dramatic
1977 set of economic reforms.
But, he said, the subsidy on wheat flour would not be removed while
the Prima Ltd deal would be renegotiated. "We are renegotiating the agreement
with Prima so as to remove certain constraints on the liberalisation of
the free import of wheat flour by the private sector," he said.
The minister said the government had decided to open out the petroleum
sector with the private sector being allowed to import and distribute fuel.
While there would not be any price control of petrol, a price structure
would be worked out for diesel and kerosene as these impacted on the average
With a new procurement system being prepared by the Policy Planning
Ministry there would be savings of defence spending while any extension
of the ceasefire would bring in further savings to the government.
Choksy said he would be presenting a set of proposals to an IMF team
visiting Colombo next month that will include renegotiating the suspended
standby credit facility. The government also planned to negotiate a Poverty
Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) with the IMF, continuing discussions
on such a facility started by the former PA administration.
He said the Central Bank's Monetary Board would be expanded to include
two private sector representatives.