No justification to impose Black Market Taxes on petrol – Ravi K

Regardless of world oil price fluctuations, there was no justification for the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to impose a "Black Market Tax" of Rs.63, on a litre of petrol that costs Rs. 52, the UNP said yesterday.

Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayaka told a news conference in Colombo yesterday that the price of oil was hovering between US$ 69 and US$ 75. Even if it goes up to US$ 80, as claimed by Petroleum Resources Minister Susil Premajayanth, the cost of a litre of petrol would be only Rs.57.

"Just because oil prices are fluctuating, a government cannot keep huge profit margins and charge its citizens black market rates," he said. "The people should not be made to suffer for the blunders committed by ruling party politicians. There is no justification whatsoever, for such high taxes that impact heavily on the common man."

Karunanayake said that if a small trader increased the price of goods, by even a few rupees, a fine was imposed. However, there was no one to punish the Petroleum Resources Ministry,which had become the number one black marketer in the country.

The Rajapaksa regime was adept at fooling the masses and a classic example was the low interest rates they pledged during the last Presidential Election campaign, he said.

"Go to any State bank and ask for the promised 8 to 10 per cent interest loans.They will tell you that the lowest rates available are between 12 to 15 per cent and that too for educational purposes. Interest on Housing loans will be charged at 18 per cent. However, car loans can be obtained at much lower rates."

Karunanayake said that the government had to explain the rationale behind the Rs.221 billion defence budget, for just five more months of this year. From where will the monies be found for health, education, job creation, resettlement of IDPs, housing etc?, he asked.

The country’s financial position was precarious. The Power Ministry was expected to suffer a loss of Rs.350 billion in the next ten years, while the Ceylon Electricity Board, had a debt burden of Rs.94 billion. With Rs.350 billion seven Mahaveli projects could be completed, he said.

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