Sri Lanka rolls out the red carpet for robber barons

One doesn’t have to be famous to live the red carpet moment – not here in Sri Lanka, which has one for the infamous too! In early September, the powers that be enacted the so-called Tax Amnesty Bill, ostensibly as one of several draconian measures to counter the forex crisis that the nation continues to grapple with.

So thus far undisclosed taxable money stowed away in offshore banks can now be repatriated to a murky land where officials are waiting with open arms. This comes with an assurance that it will not be taxed, except for a ‘fee’ or levy of one percent – for all intents and purposes, meaning that tax evaders, money launderers and crooked citizens can walk the red carpet while the voluntary taxpayer enjoys no such fame!

Quite the contrary…

In fact, the treatment of voluntary taxpayers is diametrically the opposite, in that they are hauled in to the ‘fourth floor’ of the dreaded revenue department every few years, which seems hell-bent on nitpicking about the returns that are filed in good faith.

At this rate therefore, the honest taxpayer can’t be faulted for thinking that tax evasion (which is illegal) is more acceptable than avoidance (which isn’t illegal)!

There’s also the likelihood that the dirty money brought home will eventually find its way back to where it was hoarded; it is how the laundry works, after all!

Would anyone blame a taxpayer for choosing to stop paying his or her dues either in protest at the dirty business that the amnesty embraces or in the belief that it is prudent to do so – meaning to save the tax money by citing the amnesty?

Or pay ‘tax’ at one percent, if you know what we mean…

For what it’s worth, we have witnessed the passage of such questionable amnesties in the past (in the early 2000s, for example) as well by opponents of the incumbents, which means we’re saddled with rogue entertainers no matter who rules the roost – courtesy of ‘democracy’ and the voting public, let it be said!

So to hell with implementing internationally recognised preventative measures to counter the scourge of money laundering… despite the fact that like corruption in the big picture sense, the cost to the nation is phenomenal, be it financially or in the context of the reputation of an island that is wooing foreign investors to choose to invest their clean money here.

Sri Lanka continues to shake dirty hands with its robber barons. What a shame.

– Editor-in-Chief