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POSTED AT 01:11 PM 08-03-2019

Harry harps on failure of Govt. to enforce law, consult industry

Image Courtesy: Business Today

Harry Jayawardena

- Says Rs. 100 b can be earned if illegal businesses in alcohol and tobacco industry shut down
- Suggests need to police Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise to boost revenue, end corruption

Business tycoon Harry Jayawardena, though welcoming the 2019 Budget as “wonderful”, was yesterday critical of the authorities’ failure to consult industry to resolve issues, and the lack of enforcement of law against unscrupulous officials and businesses. 

His scathing attack came as a panellist at KPMG’s post-Budget seminar, triggering applause as well as laughter from the audience. 

“You don’t need rocket science or magic. Put the house in order, enforce the law, catch the crooks, and consult the industry who understands issues. Those advising the Government are not focused,” Jayawardena said.

He said if the authorities can put an end to illegal players and products in the liquor and tobacco industries, an estimated Rs. 100 billion revenue loss can be prevented. “Take preventive action, and stop the leakage of revenue,” he emphasised.

To boost revenue, he said: “We need to only police three institutions - the Inland Revenue, Customs and the Excise Department.” 

“If the Government can end corruption and waste, we can save lot of revenue,” he stressed. 

Jayawardena suggested that a mafia was under-invoicing imported food, and selling it cheaper than “dog food.”

To drive home the point that the Government was not consulting the industry, he said that half of the milk cows imported to Sri Lanka were sick, and the balance dead. The recent locomotives deal with India are of higher capacity, and require revamping of the rail tracks, suggesting it was ill-conceived. “These are silly mistakes costing billions,” Jayawardena opined. He was also critical of proposed plans to paste a sticker on all bottled liquor. “Given the automation of distilleries and breweries, manual process of attaching stickers is ridiculous,” he noted. 

Nisthar Cassim