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Sri Lanka has invited the UK’s former Paymaster General Francis Maude, who oversaw the creation of the Government Digital Service in 2011, to visit the country and share his insights on digitalisation with a view to boosting state revenue.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe told officials at a committee meeting on Wednesday July 12 that Sri Lanka’s new revenue generation strategies draw inspiration from the UK, whose own methods have been “greatly refined and improved over time”.

“Thus, we must examine the latest systems and develop the necessary infrastructure accordingly. Proposed amendments to the Audit Act have been put forward to support this objective,” a statement from the President’s Media Division (PMD) quoting Wickremesinghe said.

“We have extended an invitation to Mr. Francis Maude, who served under Prime Minister David Cameron and has substantial expertise in this area, to visit Sri Lanka and share his insights on sectoral reform,” he said.

President Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka must explore new avenues for increasing income tax revenues, as outlined in a report presented to him by a committee appointed to recommend revenue-generating strategies. The committee is chaired by State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

“This aspect has received significant attention within our parliament. It can be argued that the lack of parliamentary discussions in the past two or three years, along with a lack of interest in certain cases, has been a primary cause of the economic crisis. To address this, several inquiry committees on income tax and the fiscal situation have been established. It is within these activities that we should seek out these new approaches,” said Wickremesinghe.

Speaking at the meeting, the president has highlighted the importance of financial discipline in nation-building and has also announced plans to promptly introduce formal measures to control public expenditure and generate new government revenue.

The PMD statement said Wickremesinghe had stressed on the need to maximise the value of every rupee spent by the government, as currently, public expenditure “often fails to achieve this objective”.

He expressed concern over not only the neglect of public revenue but also the unrestricted spending of public funds on non-beneficial activities, which has contributed to the economic crisis in the country, the statement said.

According to the PMD, the committee’s report encompasses recommendations aimed at establishing a structured framework to attain the revenue goals of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), Sri Lanka Customs, and the Excise Department. It also suggests the implementation of novel approaches to augment government revenue and the creation of a digital economic infrastructure to support these endeavours.

The president has directed the State Minister Siyambalapitiya to engage in further discussions regarding these proposals and present them to the Parliamentary Committee on Ways and Means and also called for an extensive media campaign to educate the public.

Chair of the parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage said at a meeting on July 06 that only 31,000 Sri Lankans out of some 500,000 persons with registered income tax files pay personal income tax while 328 registered limited companies out of 105,000 contribute to 82 percent of tax revenue.

Aluthgamage said that regular discussions will be held with Sri Lanka Customs, the Excise Department and the IRD on providing facilities including a digital data system linking the three entities in a bid to increase state revenue. (Economynext)

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