Wijeyadasa wants BOI closed!

Published : 9:12 am  July 28, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 


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Says BOI destroys local entrepreneurs

Stresses agency a barrier for economic development

Accuses BOI companies of various dubious biz practices

“It’s not that bad”: Minister under whose purview BOI falls



Justice and Buddhasasana Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse speaks at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s Sri Lanka Economic Summit yesterday in the presence of (from left) National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe and National Human Resource Development Council Chairman Dinesh Weerakkody 
Pic by Pradeep Dilrukshana 


By Chandeepa Wettasinghe

The Sri Lankan government’s self-proclaimed ‘one-stop shop’ for investments, the Board of Investment (BOI), should be closed down as it is destroying the economy, a cabinet minister said this week.

“I know as to how our local entrepreneurs have been destroyed. One of the main reasons is this BOI. It has to close. We have suggested to close that. That has no use for this country. It’s a barrier for economic development in this country,” Justice and Buddhasasana Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse said.

While Rajapakse was expressing his views at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s Sri Lanka Economic Summit, which concluded on Wednesday, fellow panellist National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva was seen covering his face with his hands.

The BOI grabbed headlines this month for approving a mega project of a dubious company. The BOI chairman for the past two years resigned just after the revelation, although citing different reasons.Some businessmen in the past had accused the BOI of being ‘just another stop’ instead of a ‘one-stop shop’ in the process of getting permission to invest in Sri Lanka.Rajapakse said that since he’s serving in the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), he is aware of the situation within the BOI. “When the BOI was established, with very good intentions, it worked properly and it helped to develop our economy. But now it’s the reverse. Most of the business community who are trying to do their businesses in a legitimate manner are always being obstructed by these BOI-registered companies,” he said.

Numerous Ceylon Chamber of Commerce members are BOI-registered companies.

Rajapakse said that some BOI-registered companies engage in illegal and unethical activities, such as selling the grain intended for animal feed in the market for human consumption. “Recently we’ve been having this problem about pepper. The prices have gone down; people are on the street. Earlier it was Rs.1,000 per kilo, now it has come down to Rs.700. Why? That is because of the BOI (companies).

They import from Vietnam for the purpose of value addition and half of it is sold in the local market. And when they (the BOI companies) get the approval for a project to build 500 houses, that company builds 200 houses,” he said and furnished further examples as well. 
Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe, also a panellist at the event, and under whose ministry the BOI falls, defended the institution. “It’s not that bad,” he said, noting that although imports for re-export are highly regulated, some may fall through the cracks, especially in the apparel sector. Senasinghe, who opined that the BOI has become more of a regulator than a facilitator, said that his ministry is attempting to restructure the institution, for which the plans will be ready in the next two months. Some of the BOI’s powers such as tax exemptions on promises to invest may become impotent, once the new Inland Revenue Bill comes into effect, implementing tax exemptions on actual investments.Meanwhile, Rajapakse also launched a salvo at the Customs Department for obstructing economic development. “I don’t think our Customs Department is collecting at least 50 percent of the duties, which are legally due to this country. Those (who are) trying to do (business) lawfully always fail in their business. The man who gives a bribe to a Customs officer and gets a lower customs duty is always up. That is how the market is being manipulated and that is how the economy is really being destroyed,” he said. Former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake too had said that only half of the liable customs duties are being collected.