SJB alleges maize tax fraud, claims SLPP, SLFP benefited from sugar scam

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne has alleged that a key figure in the Agriculture Ministry and about ten businessmen have benefited from the lowering of import duty on maize. The Matale District MP said so in Parliament on Wednesday (23) responding to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya’s recent announcement that import duty on a kilo of maize had been reduced from Rs. 75 to Rs. 25 to bring down the cost of animal feed. Despite an initial decision to reduce the duty on maize to Rs 50 a kilo, it had been reduced to Rs 25, she said, claiming that the revenue losses could be Rs. 5 bn.

Referring to the sugar tax scam carried out by a couple of weeks after the SLPP’s victory at the last general election conducted in August 2020, MP Kaviratne said the powers that be working hand in glove with major importers had manipulated import duties on food imports.

The Finance Ministry issued a special gazette notification on Oct 13, 2020 to bring down Rs 50 tax on a kilo of imported white sugar to 25 cents. A special examination carried out by National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that the Treasury was deprived of Rs 16 bn within four months (Oct 14, 2020 to Feb. 08, 2021).

Comparing the sugar tax scam with the recent cut in maize tax, MP Kaviratne alleged that massive profits accrued through the 2020 rip-off was used to pay for SLPP election campaigns. The MP was referring to last presidential and parliamentary polls in Nov 2019 and Aug 2020, respectively.

The NAO has declared that Pyramid Wilmar (Pvt) Ltd–the private company accused of profiteering from the sugar tax cut imported 1,222 percent more sugar than usual between October 2020 and February 2021, but did not pass the advantage to consumers. This is 45 percent of the total quantity imported by all importers (which was 277,713MT).

MP Kaviratne said that the coconut oil scam too had deprived the Treasury of as much as Rs 3 bn.

Commenting further on the reductn of import duty on maize, Kaviratne said maize cultivators in Moneragala, Hambantota, Matale, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Mahiyanganaya and Girandurukotte areas would suffer due to the government decision. According to her, those responsible for the maize tax scam were planning to reduce the tax on the import of green gram and orid.

Kaviratne claimed that funds had also been utilised for the SLFP convention at a Colombo venue though the original plan was to have it in party General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera’s electorate in the Kurunegala District.

MP Kaviratne also alleged that an organized project was underway targeting maize cultivators. The MP claimed forms requesting government assistance had been distributed by interested parties, including some SLPP MPs representing the SLFP though the relevant government agencies weren’t aware. The MP alleged that MP Duminda Dissanayake and MP Mahinda Amaraweera were responsible for the ‘operations’ in Anuradhapura and Hambantota, respectively.

The SJB spokesperson alleged that the SLFP, the major beneficiary of the maize tax scam, had launched a propaganda campaign eyeing future elections while the farmer community was plunged into crisis.

courtesy the island

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Disclaimer: SJB alleges maize tax fraud, claims SLPP, SLFP benefited from sugar scam - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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