Blood Sucking Government

Dear Editor,
One of the Budget Proposals tabled in the Sri Lankan Parliament, states that
foreign remittances from expatriate to a Bank Account by expatriate workers,
is liable to a Tax of 15%. Since this Inhuman Proposal was known, I have
been in contact with many Sri Lankans working in Oman and they have
expressed shock and disbelief, that the UNF Government could even think of
such a dastardly proposal. Does the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, his
deputy and the rest of the rank and file of the government know the
conditions under which we work? Are they aware that what we earn is through
our sweat and blood and our earnings can be classified as "Blood Money".
Just imagine a poor House Maid, who has to work from 5am in the morning till
about 10 t0 11 pm in the night, for paltry salary of Omani Riyals 40/000,
wishing to remit RO 30/000 or Rs. 7500/- to her family will have to pay
Rs.1125/ as TAX!. Is this justifiable. A normal wage earner in Sri Lanka,
earning upto Rs.20000/00 does not have to pay any tax, but a house maid who
remits Rs.7500/00 is Taxed.

The present Government of Sri Lanka will stand to loose substantial amount
of foreign remittances rather than gaining if this hideous proposal is
passed. Most of us do not have pensions and we depend on our Savings in NRFC
Accounts for our retirement. Is it not clear that if this 15% Tax is
enforced, the government will be robbing us blind of our hard earned savings
through our own sweat and blood. Messrs Chosky, Bandula Gunawardena, Ranil
Wickremasinghe and the rest of the government has had no experience in
working in the Desert neither have they undergone the misery and trauma of
the majority of poor workers in middle east countries. It is a travesty of
justice to rob us of our hard earned money.

Now we hear a different swan song by Chosky, who states "The correct
position is that if a Sri Lankan resides and works abroad for over one year,
such a person is not liable to pay any Sri Lankan Tax. However, if the
period is under one year, then remittances of wages earned abroad into Sri
Lanka attracts personal taxation going upto 30%. The proposal made in the
Budget results in Sri Lankans who have worked less than one year, and
remitted their wages into Sri Lanka, will be taxed only 15 percent. This is
a benefit to them and also an incentive to remit their wages back to Sri
Lanka. However, migrant workers who are registered with the Labour
Department will be full exempt and not pay any tax". This as reported in the
Sunday Observer of 10 November.When Chosky states "Registered with the
Labour Department" does he mean "The Foreign Employment Bureau?"

What is the incentive a migrant worker gets if he/she remits wages to a Bank
Account in Sri Lanka? There is no incentive except to hang ones face down in
despair to see 15% ones hard earned money is sucked away by the UNF
Government. There are quite a few who are employed, working in the Oil and
Gas Fields under very harsh conditions, who are entitled to four weeks leave
after two months work, as they have to work ten hours a day for two months.
Will they also be taxed, eventhough they are registered with the Foreign
Employment Bureau?

If Chosky and the rest of the UNF government thinks they can rake in "Blood
Money" from poor migrant workers, to purchase BMW's, Pajeros, Mercedes Benz,
go on foreign tours with their families and other cohorts and to indulge in
other sorts of luxury enjoyment, or to give generous hand outs to the LTTE,
they will have to re think, when they find out money is not coming into Bank
Accounts. When this happens Chosky, Ranil, Milinda Morogoda and the rest
will have to go on "Pan Handling Missions to Donor Countries"

I on behalf of many Sri Lankans appeal to those Members of Parliament and
other organisations, who have a much saner view on the travails of Migrant
Workers to ensure that this In Human proposal of taxing 15% of Foreign
Remittances to bring about a concerted amount of pressure on the Government
in withdrawing it.

Jayantha Aryaratne
Sultanate of Oman
09 November 2002





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