President calls for report as govt looks to limit imports

President calls for report as govt looks to limit imports

October 16, 2018   06:24 pm

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Considering the challenges that Sri Lanka is currently faced with due to global uncertainty, the President instructs the Ministry of Finance to study the current imports and submit a report on goods of which the imports can be temporarily restricted.

President made these remarks at the 20th session of the National Economic Council, which was held at the Presidential Secretariat this morning (Oct. 16).

The NEC deliberated extensively on measures that Sri Lanka should take in the context of challenges arising due to the appreciation of the US Dollar globally. Special attention was paid to restricting the import of non-essential goods as a temporary measure, while encouraging local substitutes.

It was discussed to revise the measures currently in place to restrict the import of non-essential goods. The President also highlighted the importance of restricting the import of non-essential polythene products that have significant environmental concerns and impact local industries negatively. 

He also pointed out that the country’s prevailing negative balance of trade can be neutralized by prudent measures to revise the import of non-essential items when combined with a proper mechanism to collect the due levies at point of custom clearance. 

The NEC also took up some concerns of local manufacturers and traders for discussion. As such, the NEC listened to some concerns raised by the importers of sugar to Sri Lanka, who pointed out that they had to incur considerable losses when sugar is sold at the current maximum retail price. 

However, given the fact that global sugar prices have now decreased continuously, the NEC advised Ministry of Finance and Consumer Affairs Authority to proper mechanism address the concerns of the sugar importers. 

Local manufacturers of fruit drinks, presenting their concerns to the NEC, sought relief on taxes that have been imposed based on the amount of added sugar in fruit drinks. It was agreed that local fruit growers and manufacturers need to be encouraged and prioritized. As such, it was advised for NEC to appoint a committee to identify a proper mechanism to support the industry.

It was also proposed at today’s NEC that apatite of Eppawala phosphate deposit to be used for manufacturing single phosphate as a substitute to the imported triphosphate for fertilizer. This measure, it was highlighted, would help Sri Lanka prevent the outflow of important foreign exchange in the future.

NEC also reviewed the present screening system at Sri Lanka customs. The NEC emphasized the need to screen all containers instead of the present system of random screening at Sri Lanka customs. The President required an urgent report on the status of the screening capacity of Sri Lanka customs.

The Kaluganga basin flood control projects, that aim to control the floods that affect the mainly Rathnapura and Kaluthara cities, were taken up for discussion at the NEC. The President pointed out that this project to the resilience of Kaluganga basin has been neglected for decades. He also highlighted the need to study the feasibility of transferring the excess waters of Kaluganga to North West and the Northern provinces, to mitigate adverse effects of climate change. NEC advised to appoint a committee to carry out a feasibility of this project.

Ministers Mangala Samaraweera, Rajitha Senarathna, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Duminda Dissanayake, Mahinda Amaraweera, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Malik Samarawickrema, and Secretary to President Mr. Udaya R Senaviratne, Chief Economist and Secretary-General of National Economic Council Professor Lalith Samarakoon, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, Senior Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandlal Weerasinghe and other officers were present at the session. Local industrialists and traders had also been invited to this session of the NEC.

-PMD

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