Mixed reaction on recent proposal to rationalise holidays

Recent proposals by the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries (CNCI) to rationalise the country's holiday structure has drawn mixed reaction from our readers. Here is one of the views

Reducing holidays - CNCI style

I am surprised to read these proposals in regard to reducing holidays in Sri Lanka. I cannot imagine how an association claiming to represent national interests can come out with such outrageous proposals. I believe those who agitate to reduce the number of holidays are insensitive to the political and social realities of Sri Lanka and they probably represent ignorant capitalists who are only interesting in making more money at the expense of the public.

The CNCI wants to have seven-day holidays for the Sinhala New Year and without any shame propose a 10-day holiday for Christmas, doing away with the Vesak Poson holiday and nothing at all for Hindus and Muslims. Doesn't the CNCI have any iota of common sense to make such outrageous proposals?

The CNCI say that when longer holidays are given, holiday excursions can be planned.

They may be taking longer holidays in Switzerland or in Singapore but the vast majority of our people want holidays to celebrate events of religious and cultural importance, not go on fun-filled excursions.

These proposals only highlight the conflict of interest between the business elite and the common man. To the former, their business and economy are the priorities while the working class still considers his religious and cultural sentiments much more important than material benefits. I agree that these attitudes can be a barrier for economic development but it is not the main cause for low productivity in this country.

To increase productivity may I suggest that CNCI bigwigs come down from your ivory towers and try to understand the feelings of the average person. Only then can they motivate them to increase productivity.

P. de Alwis
Mount Lavinia

Tax amnesty and the tax base

I refer to the article entitled 'Tax Amnesty Law won't increase tax base' by Lyn Fernando, immediate past Chairman, Exporters' Association of Sri Lanka that appeared in last week's The Sunday Times FT. I take strong objection to his assertion that 2% or less are taxpayers in this country. By his own reckoning GST and NSL together accounted for Rs. 78.8 billion rupees as taxes out of a total tax collection of Rs. 116.2 billion in 2000. That is 67% of the total tax collected. The vast majority of the people of this country contributed to this total. Today, under VAT about the same percentage would be paying tax though they may not have a tax file. People with tax files pay only 26.3% or 22% of the total tax collected. Many of the errant traders who will benefit from the tax amnesty, I believe, are members of the Association of which Mr. Fernando was a past Chairman. Whilst we would welcome an increase of these errant traders in the tax net, we should not belittle the huge taxes paid by the vast majority of the people of this country.

Mr. Fernando suggests that there should be a consumption tax. What is the difference between such a tax and the VAT we currently pay? Is Mr. Fernando suggesting that we heap additional burdens on the vast majority of the people of this country to widen the tax base whilst the traders and businessmen continue to evade paying their share of taxes out of profits?

The issue of bringing black money into the system is indeed a very difficult problem. It will be solved when there is full conviction among the business community that we have a free and open economy to stay forever. In Singapore, the problem of black money was automatically solved when the people realized that the economy was extremely well managed and there was a future for every citizen in the country. When can we, in this country, hope to reach that stage? Let us find answers to this question first. Perhaps the politicians have to find an answer to this question.
W. S. Nanayakkara

Cellphone company treats customers shabbily

A wide range of mobile phones have emerged in the open market offering attractive packages and incentives to its invaluable customers in an effort to lure them to their network. This has resulted in tough competition amongst all those who are involved in this lucrative business.

It is, however, a matter of great regret that at least one of these very popular cellular phone companies, with its head office in Colombo doesn't believe in the concept that the "Customer is always right". Ironically in a recent statement which appeared in newspapers, they have said, "A significant portion of the investment outlay would be deployed towards the enhancement of the company's customer service infrastructure. It recently set up what is billed as the country's most modern call centre providing 24-hour support to its growing customer base."

However, the customer service here is highly unsatisfactory. Perched atop their comfortable seats at the counter, the junior executives of this company have scant regard to the problems faced by its subscribers, who are offered treated in a shabby manner.

As a building contractor of repute and as one who has been patronizing this particular phone company (who boasts of even dialling on a log) for the past five years, with five cellular phones being operative amongst my many employees. Three of these were of the Rs. 500 per month package. One pre-paid line was disconnected, which is, of course a deviation from the normal rule and more of a personal humiliation to me.

All my efforts to prove my case at the billing section were of no avail. Even the credit manager did not grant me any consolation or concessions and insisted that my full amount in arrears should be cleared. However, I agreed to settle 70% of my bills and it took 72 hours to have my prepaid line restored, which, of course, is a further contravention of the rules and regulations of the company. I had to make eight regular visits to their office to lodge my grievance. Moreover my credit facility too had been restricted to Rs. 3,000 which I was unaware of and supposedly another ruse on the part of the officers to bar my lines automatically.

If this particular company does not change its attitude towards its numerous customers, I am sure there will be a stream of cellular phone users who would certainly switch on to other cellular networks who offer an up-to-date and friendly customer service.
Ahmed Ameer
Colombo 2


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