Old prices re­main de­spite tax re­duc­tion sans gazette no­tice

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Ab­dul­lah Shah­nawaz

Taxes on es­sen­tial food items and com­modi­ties that were ' re­duced’ through an an­nounce­ment by the Fi­nance Min­istry, haven’t yet been gazetted and hence, the old prices stand, of­fi­cials said.

“The Govern­ment hasn’t is­sued a gazette no­ti­fi­ca­tion yet, nor in­formed us of when one would be ready. We have to wait till the Cabi­net set­tles first and the sub­ject Min­is­ter is­sues a gazette no­ti­fi­ca­tion. Then only can we re­vise the prices,” said Con­sumer Af­fairs Author­ity ( CAA) Chair­man Anura Med­de­goda.

The Con­sumer Af­fairs Min­istry port­fo­lio was given to John­ston Fer­nando on Fri­day.

It was stated that the Govern­ment had re­duced the sugar tax by Rs 10 a kg, and the spe­cial com­mod­ity levy for dhal and chick­peas by Rs 5.

Mean­while, fol­low­ing the re­duc­tion of fuel prices this month, bus fares were re­duced by 2%, with a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion made by a num­ber of Bus Op­er­a­tors as­so­ci­a­tions. How­ever, when the pre­vi­ous regime in­creased fuel prices by an amount sim­i­lar to the present de­crease, bus fares shot up by 12.5%. The first 3 price ' tiers' re­main un­changed at Rs 12, Rs 15 and Rs 20 re­spec­tively, while the 4th 'tier', which was at Rs 25, has been re­duced by Re 1.

“The Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion ( NTC) is the author­ity that de­cides on the fi­nal fig­ure of per­cent­age re­duc­tion,” said Trans­port Min­istry Sec­re­tary G. S. Withanage. “They have a for­mula to cal­cu­late the per­cent­age. The Trans­port Min­istry has to ac­cept and gazette any de­ci­sion made by the NTC on such mat­ters.”

Mr. Withanage said that a train fare re­duc­tion wasn’t un­der con­sid­er­a­tion at present. “Re­duc­ing train fares re­quire lengthy dis­cus­sions with the unions and other stake­hold­ers first,” he said.

Pri­vate Bus Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Ge­munu Wi­jer­atne, who pro­posed the 2% de­crease, said he felt that the 1st 3 price ' tiers' should also have been de­creased. “Rs 12 is too much for the min­i­mum fare,” he said.

“When the fare was in­creased by 12.5% in May, our as­so­ci­a­tion was op­posed to it. We rec­om­mended an in­crease of 8%- 10%. The NTC sug­gested 6.5%. How­ever, cer­tain unions with con­nec­tions to the then ‘Joint Op­po­si­tion’ de­manded a 15%20% in­crease. The NTC set­tled on 12.5%.”

De­spite claims that tr­ishaw fares were re­duced by Rs 5 for the 1st km, it hasn’t yet been done. Most tr­ishaws charge Rs 60 for the 1st km (the in­creased rate fol­low­ing the fuel price hike ear­lier in the year) and Rs 40 for every km af­ter that, al­though there is an in­con­sis­tency with some charg­ing higher rates, and some lower ones.

The Govern­ment's pro­posed re­duc­tions of the Value Added Tax ( VAT) will only come into ef­fect from Jan­uary 2019.

Mean­while, the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Levy was re­duced by 10% yes­ter­day (10).

When the fare was in­creased by 12.5% in May, our as­so­ci­a­tion was op­posed to it. We rec­om­mended an in­crease of 8%-10%. The NTC sug­gested 6.5%. How­ever, cer­tain unions with con­nec­tions to the then ‘Joint Op­po­si­tion’ de­manded a 15%-20% in­crease. The NTC set­tled on 12.5%.”

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