The Sunday Leader

Tax Amendments Laid Bare The Development Myth

By Vijitha Herath

…attempt to sell Norochcholai power station to China to settle the loan taken for its second stage

The dictator in Charley Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ enjoys whirling a globe on his palm and attempting to do it with other parts of his body. This is how Chaplin portrays his dictator. His intention is to manipulate the world according to his wishes. What Chaplin attempted to depict was Hitler’s insanity of rolling the world on his palm. The intentions of other dictators are similar. Instead of the whole world these petty dictators choose to roll the country on their palms.

According to capitalist political science the basis of democracy is the separation of power between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary and through checks and balances between these institutions to limit power on a single individual or body of government and provide for the harmonious interrelationship of the people and all of the organs of government or other social institutions.

However, looking for democracy in a country trapped in a dictatorship is like looking for a cotton ball in a torched house. In Sri Lanka too, a Chaplin’s role is being playacted. An executive president, who created a parliament with a two-thirds majority using privileges, perks and various other inducements; got the number of terms a person could hold the position of presidency increased. It had been restricted to two terms by the Constitution. As a result of the judiciary obstructing the arbitrariness the chief justice was replaced with an associate.

As all functions of democracy have been made void the President may be under the impression that there are no obstacles on his path. There is no separation of powers as all powers have been amassed under one person and the three nominal institutions are merely maintained with tax payers’ money. An awkward situation experienced by people’s representatives recently reveals this situation vividly. 21 bills to legalize new tax increases proposed by the budget were to be tabled in Parliament. Normally, amendments to bills should be tabled a week before they are to be adopted. There should be time for anyone opposing the amendments to take legal action.

The distinctive feature in amendments related to tax bills is that they should be approved in Parliament within 3 months of their implementation. As these tax increases were implemented in January they should be approved in Parliament before 31st March. However, until now several amendments have not been tabled in parliament. As such, there is an issue of legality regarding these tax amendments proposed in the budget.

The government’s need, due to the financial crisis it is confronted with, is to collect taxes from masses without a delay of even one day. However, it had no hurry to table the draft bills related to such amendments. They were not tabled in time. The ministers and MPs who boasted that parliament was supreme during the process to impeach the chief justice at this instance behaved as if they were deaf and blind.

Only 15 of the 21 bills that have to be adopted have been tabled so far. One can only laugh at the episode of sending Parliament employees to MP’s houses at midnight to hand over drafts of the bills. This may indicate the inefficiency of the Ministry of Finance or generally how trivialized Parliamentary affairs have become.  This could have been another ‘night operation’ for the government that performed a miracle, once the chief justice withdrew from the parliament Select Committee, of calling witnesses in one day, holding an investigation throughout the night and releasing a report of 1575 pages in the morning.

However, what is seen at a glance is the degeneration of the government that is unable to table the drafts of amendment bills even after 4 months. If it was regarding another ministry the President could have taken action regarding the minister at the next cabinet reshuffle. However, the inadvertency has occurred in the President’s own ministry. As a court jester in the cabinet may say, it could be an act of an ‘economic hit man.’

However, the final responsibility is with the President who is the Minister of Finance as well. It is not clear what the President who shouts at ‘discoveries’ of inefficiencies in other ministries and District Development meetings say at the retardation in his ministry. On the other hand how the masses that are aware of the haste the government acts regarding allocations for road development projects or leasing of state lands that conceal chunks of commissions would consider this inefficiency is another issue.

Among the 21 amendments that are to be passed are marriage registration fees, notary fees, attorney license fees, fees for registration of documents, fees for Muslim marriages and divorces, registration fees for births and deaths, and port and airport taxes. The voter who listened to the budget speech of the President but could not understand the numbers that contained are now beginning to understand what those numbers meant. They have to pay exorbitant taxes and license fees.

As an example the attorney license fee that was Rs.5.75 has been increased to Rs.500 and another Rs. 1500 fee to cancel the attorney power has been proposed. The fee to get a copy of power of attorney has been raised from Rs.105 to Rs.1500.  The KVS license to register lands has been raised from Rs.25 to Rs.2500 and fee for the confirmation of the registration has been raised to Rs.1000.  The stamp duty for an affidavit that was Rs.25 has been raised to Rs. 250. The government that has burdened the masses with excess taxes is displaying a false development through media pageants. The expected income for 2013 is Rs.1304 billion and the amount expected to obtain as loans is Rs.1303 billion. An amount equivalent to the income is to be obtained as loans. In short the government spends 6 months of the year with the income and the other six months with loans. The government that does not have a national economic programme to break loose from the shackles of the debt trap has to take in more loans and sell state property and resources to foreigners. An example is the attempt to sell Norochcholai power station to China to settle the loan taken for its second stage.

Changing this regime that has dragged the masses and the country towards disaster is not a solution. It is necessary to go for a ‘system change’ that would terminate the wrong socio-economic policy the present government is following. There is no other solution for crises that burden the masses. Instead of the social system that sustains dictators and burdens masses with cost of living, taxes and suffering and carries out thieving, fraud and oppression a change should be made for a social system that provides relief to masses.

1 Comment for “Tax Amendments Laid Bare The Development Myth”

  1. gamarala

    The Mother of All Bills which altered and perverted the entire constitution – the 18th amendment – was ‘published’ less than 24 hours before it was ‘tabled’ in parliament with most MPs and even the Speaker being unaware of the contents.
    There were objections from only a few MPs.
    The ‘tradition’ is now being entrenched.
    Now,we have the ‘fastest’ parliament (and the ‘fastest’ supreme court which determines constitutional issues within 24 hours) in the whole world.
    In short, we have the Fastest Democracy.
    Is this a record,or what?

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