|Wednesday, 3 December 2003|
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During the past General Election campaign, the UNP candidates posed off as the best "business minded brains" that will fill up the Legislature.
Some lost but many others in the Cabinet today stake claims to their expertise in the field of Economics, Commerce and Business Management.
In the first Budget a Debit Tax on cheque dealings was imposed. An exception was thought of in an ambiguous manner with different Banks interpreting differently and the Tax Department being unable to issue a clarification.
In the second Budget even that seeming concession was taken off and it was stated that all accounts are subjected to the Debit Tax. This was on top of WHT on Dividends.
Now with the third Budget, a 15 per cent Tax on profits on share trading has been imposed. One could turn round and ask whether the Tax Department will reimburse losses sustained in trading? So now, a person dealing in Stocks will have to pay a Tax on purchases (Debit Tax on cheques), pay 10 per cent on dividends received, 15 per cent Tax on trading profits and finally the Debit Tax again when the cheque is disposed of.
The Government in a pretext of collecting "black money" gave massive concessions to noted businessmen in a futile attempt. If the Government is really interested in collecting the "black money", it should treat the Share Trading Floor as the vehicle to flush them out. Let it be the 'laundermart' for black money to thread into the mainstream in devious ways. But it cannot be done imposing various taxes and keeping the prying eyes of the Tax Department there.
It is a well established factor in the science of medicine that a child experiencing a lot of violence would react violently. Sri Lankan children experience a lot of violence through the electronic media today. eg.most of the cartoons meant for children.
These would make the children to normalise what they see unless there is a caring adult with them to guide them that it is not the way to react in a situation.
Present day working parents barely fulfill the most basic needs of children with little or no time spent with them showing them love and affection the way the child wants them from parents. In urban schools the teachers have to struggle with 45-50 children in a class and the work load, where again the children are not given a chance to develop a healthy relationship with the teacher within which they can confide problems and get guidance.
When the most important avenues of guidance (parents and teachers) are closed for the children, they make the decisions themselves. Their guide would be their experiences, sadly dominated by the characters seen in the electronic media. Most of these cartoons are too violent even for the adults to watch. These characters are not able think rationally but would respond immediately in a violent way. This could be the reason for the violence we see among the school children at present.
What should we do as responsible adults? Our duty and the right of the child is to get opportunities to grow up in an environment free of violence, at least at home. What could we demand from the authorities of these electronic media? How can we convince them that they should have programmes to give maximum benefit to maximum numbers. Could we ask the sponsors whether they could demand for better cartoons from Asian countries with less violence? Could we demand the producers of video clips and teledramas to include characters who solve problems in healthier manner not doing any harm to self or others. Could we have TV channels with programmes which would help Sri Lankans to get rid and not to promote of violence! There is one very important thing all of us could do without pointing fingers at others.
We should help children watch TV programmes with more insight identifying good from bad. We could discuss with them about better alternatives which would not have brought harm to a particular character and others at that moment or later.
DR. T. ATHAUDA
The proposal to tax profits on share trading at 15 per cent is ill-advised for two fundamental reasons.
1. The calculation of profit is cumbersome viz the same share in a single company can be bought and sold several times a year at different prices.
2. It lends itself to easy tax evasion.
At least for these two reasons, Government is most unlikely to realize the tax revenue anticipated from this tax.
It is acknowledged that those engaged in share trading, in the present environment, are earning handsome profits and it is only equitable that 'haves' must contribute towards the 'have-nots'.
I propose a more simple and effective tax on share trading. The average number of trades on a share trading day at the Colombo Stock Exchange has been averaging 1500 per day. If each trade is taxed at Rs. 1000, and there are 240 trading days per year, government revenue will amount to Rs. 360 million per year.
The advantages of this 'transaction tax' are:
1. A single 'trade' includes a buyer and seller and therefore each would be taxed at only Rs. 500 per trade which I am confident will be a 'painless extraction' no one can justifiably complain.
2. The tax could be included in the buyer's and seller's contact notes and, therefore can be collected at the time of settlement of the share transaction. No tax evasion is possible. Government can collect its tax monthly!
3. The tax will not impact adversely on the market and both institutional investors (including foreigners and foreign funds) and local retail investors together with the Government treasury are all on a Win-Win situation.
4. Since the cost of brokerage is to be reduced from 1.225 per cent to 1.025 per cent effective December 1 the impact of the proposed transaction tax will be even more minimised.
5. If the tax revenue forecast from this proposal (Rs. 360 Million) is below Government expectations in its Budget, several variations are possible. For example, taxing high value trades e.g. over Rs. 1 Million at a higher rate. Alternatively, Institutional investors can be called upon to pay a higher rate.
A friend sends a barrage of e-mails. I got the article '500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese (1505 - 2005) - An ailing nation prepares to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the event that triggered its slow demise'.
To 'celebrate' is to rejoice for a happy event or an achievement. Since the word is now jargon, the use here by a Government nitwit should be expected. I do not know what things are planned but the President, Prime Minister and Ministers may not have a ball. Also, let us judge the man from Portugal as he does. A Japanese Prime Minister cried when he apologized to the Koreans.
Nelson Mandela, a man with 'every right' to be bitter, created political theory and history with the concept of 'reconciliation'. He had insight of the words of the Buddha, "Let not a person revive the past or on the future build his hopes for the past has been left behind and the future has not been reached. Instead with insight let him see each presently arisen state. Let him know that and be sure of it, invincibly, unshakably," Nelson Mandela should be regarded a saint and a sage.
Remember also the hypothetical macabre simile of the Buddha: "You will not be following my teaching if hate arises even if bandits were to sever you limb by limb". What applies to one individual applies to many. It is unskilful to dig the past to arouse hate, remorse and sadness when it is skilful to attenuate them. 'Nation' and 'country' are abstract ideas. One cannot love or hate them.
It is a common feature during the weeks preceding Christmas to see Santa Claus appearing in commercials carrying gooddy-goodies and most disgusting of all with bottles of liquor.
Christmas is a peaceful, holy and joyful season though commercialism, sad to say has taken precedence of the true message of humility and love where God gave all mankind His only begotten son Jesus Christ. That was the glad tiding of comfort and joy brought to the poor shepherds by the heavenly host.
Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, so treat him with reverence and do not make of him a cheap commercial tool.
M. T. M. De SILVA
I read with interest the article 'Commercialisation of local inventions and innovations' (Nov. 24). This was the keynote address by the Sri Lanka Inventions Commissioner, commemorating the silver jubilee-University of Ruhuna, October 7, 2003.
It is understandable that this address was not to list all the inventions made in Sri Lanka. However, the commissioner did list the following inventions:
1. Machine for extracting cashew kernels
2. Rubber tapping machine
3. Coconut and tea plucking machines
4. Pedal coconut scraping machine
5. Corn seed remover
6. Coir dust to packing material processor
Are these the only significant innovations and inventions that Sri Lanka can claim? Or, is it that the achievements in Sri Lanka are underrated and unreported? I do not doubt the value or "sexiness" of the aforementioned inventions. However in an international arena of inventions and innovations, can we only speak of the above inventions? I leave it to you to decide the international opinion of our inventions and innovativeness.
The article thanks many persons of academic achievement, scholarship schemes, international presentations, financial assistance to inventors. Presidential and Presentational Awards ceremonies and invention incubators. Those are great. However, if we can only list the "coconut scraper" type inventions, then we relay must re-examine our innovations and innovative initiatives. Sri Lanka Inventors Commission (SLIC), slick in verbosity, but is lacking in reality.
Mentioned in the article, the aforementioned inventions are for sale at Sathosa, STC and Mahapola shops. I really wanted a coconut plucking machine; unfortunately the local Sathosa has not even heard of this device.
PROFESSOR (EMERITUS) GAMINI WEERASEKERA
A recently retired banker from Colombo 5, has hastened to defend the Bank of Ceylon on the service charge it levies on current accounts, when the balance falls below a stipulated minimum.
When ordinary readers choose to air their grievances through national newspapers, it has to be viewed against the general background from which criticisms arise. Ordinary people who transact business at banks know fully well that this is not the only levy they are subject to, at banks. Some banks charge a levy when people pay their water bills through the bank. When one issues cheques above Rs. 20,000 within a month, he is subject to a debit tax.
The same applies when he withdraws from his own savings. True, all these are not levys by the bank. But it is from the meagre earnings of ordinary people, all these recoveries have to be met.
Furthermore, in defence of the bank service charge Mr. Abeywickrema cites two of the most unreasonable service charges presently levied by the Water Board and Sri Lanka Telecom, which have been already subject to heavy criticism by newspaper readers.
It is better if valuable newspaper column space is more devoted to air readers' genuine grievances, rather than to defend authorities who resort to various ways of collecting revenue.
V. K. WIJERATNA
I am a visitor to Sri Lanka from Northern Ireland. There is much that I like about the country: The honest friendly people, the national parks and the diverse ecology they contain, and the cultural sites.
What I don't like, and which is a danger to everyone, is the pollution by motor vehicles. Almost every vehicle that passes me pours out blue or black fumes.
The Government should enforce a minimum pollution policy. They should also ask the Department of Education to introduce environmental studies in all the schools and at every stage of the learning process in order to raise the awareness of ecological issues and nurture, a sense of ecological responsibility among the young people of the country.
This would have clear health, ecological and economic benefits.
Motor vehicle pollution aside I intend to enjoy the rest of my stay in this beautiful country. I hope that on my next visit the roads and streets will be healthier to walk through.
It now augurs well for the nation at last the President and the Prime Minister, in the context of the putative monstrosity of the Constitution, are playing master strokes of statesmanship in a bid to arrive at a consensus on the fundamental issues involved.
Both of them have utilized the expert services of their two secretaries and two other accredited persons to draft the necessary Memorandum of Understanding. There is no doubt that their trusted supporters will toe the line.
It is submitted that the projected MoU should be signed by the two leaders at a short ceremony to be held at a public place - e.g. the Galle Face green or the Independence square.
Produced by Lake House