05th October1997


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Call for SAARC fund flow

The Sri Lankan government should take a lead role in moving SAARC countries to liberalise capital flows to boost intra-regional portfolio investments, a top local entrepreneur has suggested.

"SAARC countries should relax capital account controls, so that funds could be moved without prior permission to purchase shares," Forbes & Walker Chief and former Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange Ajith Jayaratne told journalists, after signing the deal to formalise the sale of a stake in Forbes and Walker stockbrokers to ABN Amro HG Asia Securities Ltd.

"We have already suggested this to the President and Deputy Finance Minister."

At the moment, most SAARC countries including Sri Lanka permits the free entry and exit of portfolio investment funds of non-resident investors. However local residents are subject to normal exchange control regulations.

Mr. Jayaratne said, proper monitoring procedures have to be put in place to prevent malpractices.

He said India in particular had a huge investor base, and if even a small part of the Indian investor base started investing in neighbouring countries with much smaller markets, they would receive a substantial boost.

"But it has to be a two-way process, with each country agreeing to permit the free flow of capital to others, so that investors in SAARC countries can buy shares in other markets," Mr. Jayaratne said.

Excise men fall short of resources

By Priyantha Gamage

The Excise Department which detected 7,500 offences and collected Rs. 12. 7mn in fines in 1995 is facing a shortage of staff and resources, the latest Administration Report of the Excise Commissioner reveals.

"The Narcotics Unit without adequate facilities provided to them has made a number of good detections," Commissioner General of Excise at the time W. N. F. Chandraratne said.

He said the department was functioning without adequate staff, weapons, transport and fuel

"The strength of the department deserves to be enhanced to discharge its role as an effective prevention and enforcement mechanism to achieve better results," the Commissioner said.

He said excise crime had increased during the year.

A total of 7,456 offences had been detected and 8,202 plaints had been filed during the year on various offences under the Excise Ordinance, the report says.

The most serious offences committed by licensees were the dilution of arrack, sale of arrack manufactured from spirits on which duty has not been paid and opening of bottles for sale in retail premises.

The department has netted-in nearly Rs 3.4 million out of 3228 prosecutions for possession of unlawfully manufactured arrack, as fines during the period.

A total of Rs. 2,816, 502 has been collected by way of Composition fees.

Unlawful sale of arrack has brought in Rs. 2.8 million from 1358 cases whilst unlawful sale of toddy has earned Rs.1.1 million as fines, during the year, from 993 cases in court.

The rewards paid to officers for the year for detections which ended in convictions in court cases was Rs 2.5 million and the rewards paid from composition fees recovered was Rs 1.4 million .

The number of detections made by the department with regard to narcotics is 220 out of which 22 involved females. Of this 215 detections were made by the Excise Narcotics unit in Colombo. The quantities seized were 92g and 260 mg of pure heroin, 9kg, 895g, and 420 mg of cannabis (Ganja).

A sum of Rs. 794, 950 was recovered by way of fines in this regard.

A plantation of 13 acres of fully grown cannabis was detected and 416,000 plants were uprooted and destroyed in jungle areas of Balaharuwa and Uva Kada-Oya.

The Report also quoted the following wholesale and retail prices of Narcotics.

The 1995 report also noted that "the government, in its drive to wean people away from illicit liquor and also to dissuade the use of hard alcohol as against soft alcohol, has brought down the duty on beer by a considerable margin, and thereby reducing the selling price of a bottle of beer.

However, the impact of this exercise is not much felt due to the short supply of beer in the market, as the two existing manufacturers were unable to meet the demand.

Therefore, applications are being considered to open up new breweries to meet the shortfall in production".

Since then the department has issued licences to three new breweries - United Breweries, Lion Brewery and Asia Brewery Corporation, a spokesman for the department told Business Times.

The Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka Ltd., and Globe Blenders and Bottlers (Pvt) Ltd. too had applied for licences.

From 1st May 1995 a new system to issue licences was introduced, based on new guidelines in place of the old system of automatic renewal of licences.

During the year, the post of Excise Commissioner was upgraded to that of Commissioner General of Excise and two posts of Excise Commissioner were also created.

However, the Post of Commissioner General of Excise has not been filled to date. The former Commissioner General, W.N.F. Chandraratne left the department in December 1996. At present Bandula Wijeratne a senior official from the Finance Ministry under whose purview the ministry functions, is acting.


By Business Bug

Underhand move

The millions of shares of a leading investment house being transacted daily raised many eyebrows at the Stock Market last week.

Many overseas investors were opting to sell their stock in the company, brokers said.

Even the watchdog commission was worried this was another take-over bid and a wary eye is on the look out for some such indication, we hear…

Bother over contracts

One of the biggest publicity contracts, that of the Bird of Paradise is attracting bids from around the world.

But many prospective agencies wondered what all the fuss about the boss was. If he lands in hot water will the contracts still be valid, some of them wanted to know.

And they were all told there was no need to panic. Harry or no Harry there was no need to worry because this was an airline backed by government guarantees…

Trouble in the brew

Trouble has erupted again at the place where they bottle the brew that is always refreshing.

The management thinks the troublemakers are ex-employees seeking vengeance for being retrenched.

But production will commence again shortly, they say, though more insurance cover will be sought for top managerial staff…

Continue to Business page 3 * Lending rates remain high * IMF calls for banking transparency

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