There has been much debate on the Nation Building Levy (NBL) since
its introduction in the 2009 Budget on November 6, to be implemented as
from the beginning of the next fiscal year. Some have argued that it
would throw an additional burden on the taxpayer while some others have
opined that it would further complicate the already complex tax system.
To my surprise, I also read in the print media a couple of days ago a
well-known tax consultant, a chartered accountant objecting to it on the
flimsy ground that it would necessitate opening of new tax files. In any
event, many do not seem to have either appreciated or understood the
purpose and significance of the NBL.
In my view, this levy (or tax if one prefers to call it that way),
could not have come at a more appropriate time. This budget has set
apart for defense, the highest amount ever in the 25 year history of the
Eelam war of our country of Rs.170 billion. It works out to nearly 15
per cent of the total budgeted expenditure and to half of the overall
The war against terrorism has been successfully conducted during the
last three years culminating in the regaining of Pooneryn and the entire
A32 road, a gateway to Jaffna, a couple of days ago. The Government is
committed to heavy infrastructure expenditure for rehabilitation and
reconstruction of the Eastern Province which has now been liberated from
terrorism and where democracy has been re-established. The Government
has also proposed in this 2009 budget several new expenditure proposals
accounting for Rs. 54 billion, more than half of which for development
expenditure towards overall sustainable growth of the economy.
These are all part and parcel of nation building, and the Government
needs money for all them. Even though there are new taxation proposals
which are expected to bring in Rs. 76 billion, the net gain would be
only Rs.30 billion because of the anticipated loss in revenue due to the
reduction in the VAT rate from 15 per cent to 12 per cent and the
increase in taxable income slabs from Rs.300,000 to Rs.400,000. The
Government expects to collect only Rs.15 billion from the NLB.
As the Tax Advisor of the Ministry of Finance and Planning remarked
at one of the telecast interviews, the NLB should not be treated as a
burdensome tax, but as a one's voluntary contribution towards the
building of our nation. Every patriotic person, those who are paying tax
now, as well as all those who have capacity to pay but do not pay tax
now, should make this contribution of 1 per cent. It is on the turnover
exceeding Rs.300,000 for each quarter, for only two years commencing
The tax is applicable to service providers, in addition to producers
and importers. I shall limit my note to service providers.(The details
of producers and importers and the exemptions allowed to them are
provided by the Ministry of Finance).
The Department of Inland Revenue, it seems, has at present only
400,000 tax files, even from all of which tax revenue may not be
derived. Although tax rates have been substantially lowered, expecting
less tax evasion and tax avoidance, no significant increase in direct
tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is witnessed. However, if one
examines the growth of our national income, and its distribution among
the decile/quintile segments of the population/households of our
country, in the last decade, one is bound to ask how and why there
should not be as many more tax files as now. Since the opening of the
economy our service sector has expanded much more rapidly than the other
sectors. In my view, the number of professionals in our country must be
easily around 100,000. The Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA)
itself has 42 professional Member Associations comprising around 50,000
individual members. How about the other service providers? One has only
to go round our bazaars and along our main streets to get an idea of how
many service providers there could be, for example, numbers of Cyber
Cafes, Communication Centres, Hair Dressing Saloons, Beauty Parlours,
Beauticians, Video Photographers, Motor Garages, Cushion Works, Pantry
Cupboards and Tutories, to mention a few categories. I am sure almost
all of them will be above the threshold turnover.
They should voluntarily come forward, and pay the NBL, without
waiting for the tax department to come after them. If all providers of
professional and other services pay the tax according to their capacity
to pay, the Government is bound to realise much more revenue than it has
budgeted. Apart from national and patriotic considerations, mere equity
demands this from the public. At the same time, I may be failing in my
duty if I do not underscore here that the members of the Government
should set an example to the public by making a sacrifice themselves, by
at least cutting down on waste, non essential and ostentatious and
lavish expenditure and luxurious 'perks', on their part, and also
helping to eradicate corruption.
With due respect to Mohamed Zahran (DN November 8) the ethics of
Sharia Laws as applied to animal slaughter does not diminish the fact
that the animals do suffer pain unnecessarily however sharp the knife
One cannot ignore the fact that these laws were devised over fifteen
hundred years ago and they desperately need revision to bring it in line
with modern culture. Just last week a 13 year old girl in Nigeria was
raped, yet she was found guilty of having sex with a man who was not her
husband and stoned to death while buried up to her neck in a pit. All
this was under the direction of Sharia Laws and alas completely
As far as I know Arne Fjortoft, the affable Norwegian was the first
to establish practical links of friendship with Sri Lanka. After
arriving in Sri Lanka in 1967 he went to Karainagar in Jaffna and
established the CEYNOR project to help a so-called untouchable Tamil
community there who were engaged in fishing. With funds from a
temperance movement in Norway he successfully started a boat building
factory and shrimp processing unit.
This Tamil community belonging to the so-called depressed class is
not allowed to worship at the Hindu temple and are denied even water
from the wells of the high caste Tamils who now call themselves the
liberators of the Tamils.
In 1970, I came into contact with Arne Fjortoft and helped him in
various ways using my official position at the Ministry of Fisheries.
CEYNOR was later absorbed into the Ministry of Fisheries. In 1977, I
went to Norway on a Norad Fellowship and it was during this year that
Norwegian Parliament decided to include Sri Lanka in the donors list.
Their first step was to help Hambantota District apart from grants to
various other projects in the island. Later even Moneragala came under
One important factor in Norwegian aid was that they were grants and
not loans. On my return after postgraduate studies in Norway I along
with a few other Norad fellows and others having business contacts with
Norway formed the Sri Lanka - Norway Society. This society gave
publicity to the good work done by the Norwegian Government.
However, in later years while functioning as a peace broker between
the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka, it was noted that Norwegian
organisations getting involved in activities beyond their agenda and
during later years it came to light that Norway had been helping the
LTTE in a big way. Now it is well-known that Norway had supplied much
needed telecom equipment, vehicles, heavy machinery and money to the
LTTE. This had been exposed with facts and figures. More evidence came
to light when the NGOs were requested to leave the conflict zones.
The JVP for a number of years took great pains to expose the
activities of Norway and what they said in the past had come true.
In this scenario popularity rating of Norway as far as Sri Lanka is
concerned, now stands below zero and this hurts a number of persons like
me who enjoyed the hospitality of Norway during our stay there for
Even at this late stage Norway can play a big role by requesting
Prabhakaran to lay down arms and surrender and begin a new chapter.
Norway must act now because time is running out.
I was highly pleased to read the news item under the above caption
(Daily News November 14). It is quite relevant and exemplary to all
those who take little care of their elderly parents while they are
suffering in solicitude without filial affection and support.
According to the Daily News reporting of the most pertinent talk
delivered by Uva Provincial Minister of Health, Social welfare,
Probation and Childcare in a function held in Badulla, it seems that the
Minister has conceived a progressive plan to implement a mechanism for
helping old people in the Uva Province in a much better way. He is
making a genuine effort to organise a team of doctors like 'the Chinese
barefoot doctors who usually visit the villages to help old people
This humanitarian plan must be adopted by all Provincial Councils in
Sri Lanka. Most importantly, the central Government operated under the
most practical thoughts of Mahinda Chinthana should readily provide the
best facilities to the elderly people who are in need of the best care
while some of them are being bed ridden in their houses. In this regard,
I would like to quote a few Quranic verses to draw the attention of sons
and daughters to care for their elderly parents: "-be dutiful and good
to parents- (2: 88) "whatever you spend of good must be for parents
......".(2:215) ".do good to parents..." (4:36) " ...giving help to kith
and kin( i.e., all that Allah has ordered you to give them e.g., wealth,
visiting, looking after them, or any other kind of help) and forbids AL-FAHSHA
(i.e all evil deeds e.g., disobedience of parents"-) (16: 90) " And your
Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful
to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your
life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but
address them in terms of honour."(17: 23) "And we have enjoined on man
to be good and dutiful to his parents; --") (29: 8) "And we have
enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore
him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship and his weaning
is in two years- give thanks to me and to your parents.-") ( 31: 14)
"And we have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents.
His mother bears him with hardship and the bearing of him and the
weaning of him is thirty months, till when he attains full strength and
reaches forty years, he says, My Lord! Grant me the power and ability
that I may be grateful for your favour which you have bestowed upon me
and upon my parents and that I may do righteous good deeds such as
please you and make my offspring good-") (46:15) "But he who says to his
parents: "Fie upon you both! Do you hold out the promise to me that I
shall be raised up (again) when generations before me have passed away
(without rising?) While they (father and mother) invoke Allah for
help(and rebuke their son):" Woe to you! Believe! Verily, the promise of
Allah is true."---(46:17). Thus, Islam makes it obligatory for the
children to look after their parents while they are in old age. If this
religious instruction is strictly followed by all, the Government need
not keep the elders in Elders' home separately while their affluent sons
and daughters live in luxurious bungalows sans the responsibility of
keeping their aged parents.
Therefore, may I appeal to all sons and daughters to read the above
Quranic verses and draw inspiration from them to take care of their
beloved aged parents.
Thousands of Muslim families have been displaced from the North due
to the action of the LTTE terrorist. Today they are living in temporary
camps.The Muslims claim to have supported the rulers of Sri Lanka in the
past specially against foreign invasion. Unfortunately there are hardly
any Muslim soldiers in the Sri Lanka Army today.
I think it is the duty of Muslims to join the Sri Lanka Army and
fight for the liberation of the country from the terrorist.