Saturday, 22  February 2003  
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Mystery of ETF advice

The last Employee Trust Fund advice received by the employees, for which a contribution of 3% is made by the employer, was for the year 1998.

Many letters have appeared in the English dailies complaining about the delay and wanting to know the cause for it.

The chairman of the ETF who normally answers queries and solves problems in regard to ETF letters that are published in newspapers is clearly silent on this matter.

At least, will this letter be even answered as to why the ETF slips are not sent to the employers for distribution of same to their employees? The relevant Minister too would have read such letters yet what is the use? Actually what is happening for it?

Is it bankrupt or lack of staff or not fully equipped? If it continues like this I think the trust fund will be named as Employees 'Trustless' Fund.

Even the scholarship grant of Rs. 10,000 for those children who had been successful in the Scholarship examination had been not given to most of them. I take this opportunity of requesting the television institutions to arrange discussions amongst the officials of the government departments that deal with our day to day subjects and other important issues instead of televising political ones that are mainly 'mud slinging' to one another.

Colombo 1

What are the criteria for investigations?

It is reported that yet another company accepting deposits from the public is in trouble. There is no need to study the accounts to ascertain whether a finance company is in trouble. The high rates of interest boldly advertised by some finance companies are warning signals to the regulators that sooner or later the depositors will lose their money.

Even the Deputy Finance Minister and the Central Bank officials have highlighted this fact. Some of these advertisements appear painted on buses even for half blind to read. It is mind boggling as to why these advertisements have not caught the eye of the regulatory bodies.

Are they treating these advertisements as a yardstick to measure the greed of the depositors?

A few finance companies are now collecting funds for investing in cultivations for timber. What the unsuspecting investors don't realize now is, when it's time for their children to benefit from the harvest, there will be the excuse of a severe drought affecting these cultivations.

It is common knowledge that some of the finance companies with the connivance of the auditors window dress their accounts. It cannot be said that all companies in this line of business are fraudulent. But the business is risky. Therefore someone has to make the depositors aware of the risks.

The regulatory bodies should be mindful at the current reduction of interest paid on deposits by NSB and other reputed institutions, many depositors are likely to fall prey to fraudulent companies accepting deposits.

It is true the depositors are to be blamed if they are being greedy. But isn't there a moral obligation on the part of regulatory bodies to warn the unsuspecting depositors. A politician will never understand the plight of a retired person living on interest income. The discriminatory taxation of interest income is ample proof.

At least NSB and other rural banking institutions should send circulars to customers explaining the danger of seeking high interest rates.

The Central Bank cannot be expected to act in any manner, which could in general adversely affect the profitability of well-connected finance companies. Neither can the public expect this from the Deputy Finance Minister.

In fairness to the Central Bank, they should be commended for being pro-active and for steps taken to investigate at least one finance company prior to its total collapse.

As to why they are not investigating many other institutions accepting deposits from the public is another matter. Let us hope at least Rohan Perera the former CEO of Pramuka Bank will some day reveal reasons attributable to different standards of Central Bank. Most regulatory bodies are good at carrying out a post-mortem, whereas the need of the hour is to stay tuned to pick up warning signals.

It is brought to mind that despite qualified audit reports year after year, the Central Bank officials delayed investigating Pramuka Bank.

When the Sri Lanka Accounting and Auditing Standards Monitoring Board was set up the Director General assured the public that the Board will examine accounts and give warning signals to stakeholders.

The SLAASMB had to wait until Pramuka Bank went into liquidation for them to simply read the Pramuka audit report. No one cared to take serious note of the findings of an internationally reputed audit firm.

No wonder the public consider some regulatory bodies to be an unnecessary burden on the tax payer. However, the million dollar question will never be answered.

That is, who will ensure that standards for continuity of investigation of individual companies will be uniformly applied by Central Bank, SLAASMB, SEC and other regulatory bodies. The Deputy Finance Minister should ensure that there is no truth in the perception of some depositors that the greed of some officials influence investigations.

Colombo 5.


As I travel from my home to my workplace opposite the Air Force Playground in Colombo 1, I am always amazed at the callous indifference of the CEB that leaves the road lights on, even during broad daylight.

For a Third World country like ours, having light blazing all over Colombo city at night is bad enough, but to light the city and the suburbs during the day is unpardonable.

Why is valuable public funds squandered in this fashion?

We, the ratepayers are burdened from time to time, with ever escalating electricity charges. But we hardly ever leave our lights burning during daylight hours.

The public are not lunatics to leave their home lights on during the day. But, then, we are the ones who are supposed to conserve electricity.

Well we do conserve electricity to such an extent, that sometimes, people manage with the minimum number of lights in their homes, simply because the monthly electricity charges burns up and reduces their lifespan gradually. But the callous, affluent and indifferent officials of the CEB who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths, are quite obvious to the fact that some of their colleagues are not really doing their jobs.

Surely somebody is in charge of the switching on and off street lights? Or is it performed by a miracle? Are no humans involved?

In this day and age of advanced technology, and when vast sums of public funds are thrown away on unmentionable, unnecessary things, cannot the CEB invest in automatic street lights that do not require the employees of the CEB to waste their precious energy.

This type of street lights are fixed at some places and it is a pleasure to watch them gradually switch on after 6.30 p.m. and switch off before 7.00 a.m.

So why not invest in a worthwhile cause, that will save money for this poor, impoverished, bankrupt country of ours?


Duty free vehicles for expatriate workers

In a recent news item the Director of the SLBFE says that last year alone the country received Rs. 115 Billion in foreign exchange from those working abroad. This is no exaggeration as the Sri Lankans working abroad are the biggest foreign exchange earners for the country.

However, every successive government has ignored this very generous FOREX contributor. Numerous letters have appeared over the years requesting governments to at least allow the import of a Duty Free vehicle of one's choice as a concession for the contribution of the much needed foreign exchange to swell the government coffers.

Some categories of government employees are permitted to import Duty Free cars. Then again cricketers and sports stars are allowed to import "Duty Free" vehicles (one each). It is well and good as they brought fame to the country. Then why not allow the Sri Lankan expatriate workers to pay out of their own foreign exchange remittances to import any type of vehicle - be it a Van, Car, Motorbike, Scooter etc., for their use. In addition to their generous remittances they are also relieving the unemployment problem at the same time.

In formulating such a scheme it is important to set limits based on the amount of FOREX remitted and the number of years worked abroad (between 2 years and over) so that the actual FOREX remitters are only benefited.


Tax amnesty

It is reported that a Tax Amnesty is to be granted to those who disclose their undeclared wealth before May 2003. These defaulters are those who have defrauded the Inland Revenue for many, many years and got away with it. Now they have only to confess their sins and they are pardoned without the payment of any fines or penalties! Most of them have made their money on illegal deals, bribery and corruption, smuggling and custom duty evasion. Now they escape scot-free!

What are the merits or demerits of this, I would like to ask : What about those who have earned their money honestly, declared their incomes truthfully annually and on time, paid their taxes on the due dates, have not had to pay fines and penalties and have never given any trouble to the Inland Revenue at all times? Do they not deserve any reward at all for their exemplary, civic-conscious conduct? Sadly, they are forgotten. Is honesty still the best policy, one begins to wonder?

I would suggest that the Minister concerned should reward those honest individuals who can show clean records, say for fifty years or more - in a meaningful manner. Perhaps by closing their files altogether and exempting them from Income Tax for the rest of their lives.

After all, these fine senior citizens have not too many more years to live and could be spared the arduous task of filling up Tax Returns as they get older. They will certainly get their rewards in a place higher than the fifteen floors of the Inland Revenue Building when they leave their earthly abode - but they well deserve a reward here too!

Mt. Lavinia

Football maestro - Manilal

Of late, since certain disgruntled elements have made some wild and unwarranted criticism against Manilal Fernando.

'A prophet is not honoured in his own country' the saying goes. The same could be said of Manilal. As an ardent lover of the game and being a player, a FIFA referee, an administrator, match assessor, qualified coach and a sports writer, I am compelled to pen these few lines in appreciation of the wonderful work Manilal has done and is doing up to now to promote this poor man's game.

I have worked very closely with many Presidents of the governing body, beginning with the late M/s V. A. Sugathadasa, M. D. Kitchilan, B. G. S. David, Dunstan de Alwis and the W. Mallamaarachchi. I have also been the president of the Wattala League and its representative in the FFSL for well over ten years and can say with justifiable pride that the years I spent and worked with Manilal was the happiest and most fruitful in my long sports career.

As a member of the EXCO of the FFSL, I think I was the worst critic of Manilal and his administration, with someone else we would have ended up as enemies, but not so with Manilal, he took all these in good faith because my intention was not to sling mud at him, but to pin point the shortcomings so that they could be corrected. We are still friends. In 1979 things at the FFSL were much to be desired. Then the mantle falls on Manilal a revered man with incredible stamina held with sincere admiration and profound respect for the length, breadth and heights of his astonishing achievements in the football arena which he strode like a colossus for many years.

I shall not go into detail about Manilal's contribution to football, that has been already mentioned by Rex Fernando in the two articles that appeared in the Daily News recently. But I just can't resist the temptation to mention only two of his achievements.

One is the coveted position he holds in the FIFA as a member of the development committee for Asia, where he overlooks the working of 12 countries. He is also in the players status committee of FIFA and is also FIFA's Goal Project man in Sri Lanka. He is also the Vice President of the Asian Football Confederation, Chairman of its Finance Committee and also member of its Rules and Constitution Committee.

The next is the construction of the Football House, the realisation of his greatest ambition. It should be really named Manilal Fernando Football House. It is not late to, do the change even now. These two achievements alone will speak volumes of the man's achievements and no wonder he is held in high esteem in the football world.

To know Manilal is to know a leader, a dynamic teacher and a sincere friend. Manilal has spent monies out of his pocket to help poor players. I have seen him doling out cash for their bus fares.

Manilal's contribution to football is so strong that even the slightest criticisms and blind prejudices levelled against him will struggle with desperation to resist the truth and these voices of obloquy crying in the wilderness, will become more and more faint and few and soon will be hushed forever.

In this article it has been my endeavour not to write one line which later I would like to beat in that solemn hour it would be a solace to me to know that I have done what I had to do to honour this great man.

Dear Manilal, on behalf of all those who love this sport, we bow our heads and pay you a homage and place near your feet our everlasting love, respect and reverence. You really deserve it.

Basil C. Jayawardena

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