Bill will not make CPC a Chinese Colony – Cabraal
By Treshan Fernando
State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal strongly denied allegations that the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill would turn the Colombo Port City into a Chinese colony.
“If this is becoming a Chinese colony, the Supreme Court will reject it. I do not believe that will happen,” Cabraal said.
He argued the commission is being implemented primarily to maximise the convenience and ease of doing business for companies and that the CPC would be a ‘turning point’ in the country’s history.
The State Minister was speaking at a Media conference held at the Ministry of Finance on 16 April. He alleged that many people have not read the Bill properly and are making incorrect statements regarding it.
Speaking further, Cabraal said the commission of five to seven members, which would be appointed by the President, was established to provide a single window investment facility. In other words, he pointed out that businesses will not have to waste time due to bureaucracy and instead will easily be able to register under the commission.
Cabraal added, according to the Bill, the commission would be charged with providing a safe and conducive business environment, enforcing contracts, ensuring transparency, managing sustainable development and boosting innovation, tourism and entrepreneurship.
However, the State Minister firmly denied that companies registered under the commission would be above Sri Lankan laws. He stressed that permission for companies would be granted following approval by the Auditor General and the concurrence of relevant regulatory bodies.
He stated that Parliamentary approval is required for the establishment and operation of stock and precious metals, in relation to local property taxes and terms relating to offshore companies and in several other instances.
Whilst the CPC does not come under Urban Development Authority (UDA) or Municipal Council laws, Cabraal assured the public that under the commission all these laws and requirements would be enacted.
Importantly, the State Minister remarked that products bought in the CPC would not be subject to another tax when brought to the mainland. Denying that any checkpoint would be established on the border of the CPC, he said that Sri Lankans would be able to freely visit the CPC, even just to enjoy the beach.
He also responded to accusations about salaries for workers in the CPC being paid in foreign currency and being non-taxable. If an individual works abroad and earns a salary, their income would also not be taxed and so similarly CPC employees’ income will not be taxed, justified Cabraal.
Regarding the allegation that companies set up in the CPC, under the commission, would be exempt from certain taxes such as VAT, excise tax and debit tax, Cabraal conceded it was true.
However, he said that licensing and registration fees would be collected and used as Government revenue. Moreover, the State Minister claimed that once consumers have money, they will patronise businesses and engage in tourism related activities, bringing benefits to the nation.
He said that questions about money laundering were entirely unfair and affirmed that Sri Lanka is not rescinding its money laundering laws. Additionally, he stressed that the Sri Lanka Police will have complete jurisdiction over the CPC.
Cabraal also rejected claims that this was hurried through Parliament. He pointed out that the first Cabinet decision was made in 2014 and several other Gazette notices were issued, even during the previous Government.