Two thousand and five hundred years ago, Gautama Buddha correlated tax collectors to bees. A righteous ruler, said he, taking the Liccavis as an example, collects tax without making it a burden on people, in the same was a bee collects honey from a flower (without damaging it).
Such wise words were not always heeded.
Four new levies, reported Financial Times today, will come into force this month under the Environmental Conservation Levy Act No. 8 of 2008.
All communication towers will be charged Rs 50,000, according to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) Chairman Udaya Gammanpila, who explained it was done to ‘induce telecommunication companies to share the towers’.
Sharing telecom towers is good, but if Mr. Chairman thinks that happens just by forcing them to pay for erecting towers, he is wrong. Had cost been the issue, sharing would have already happened, given the high cost of tower erection – from leasing the land to bribing authorities of all levels. Further if the CEA’s concern was reducing the numbers it could have been done more effectively working together with Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka (TRCSL). That is how it happens in other countries. They could have learnt from the recent attempts by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory commission.
Perhaps TRCSL is too busy with monitoring porn. So this will levy be eventually paid by the mobile and CDMA subscribers.
If that is not enough, mobile phones will further be levied two percent of their monthly bills. (Even without this mobile users pay 26 cents as tax for every Rs. 1 usage – the ratio among the highest in the world) The funds such generated will supposedly be used to build an e-waste recycling plant. Says CEA Chairman: “Currently we do not have such a facility and users dispose of their old mobile phones improperly, causing damage to the environment.”
We anticipate CEA Chairman to be better informed than we are in environmental matters. All we know is used mobile phones are not an environmental concern in Sri Lanka. Recycling firms confirm it is only rarely they find a mobile phone discarded. When Dialog Telekom initiated an island-wide drive to collect used mobiles (with attractive cash prices) they could not gather even a hundred.
So we can only assume if at all another recycle plant is needed, it is for the other forms of e-waste. Parts of all types of electronic goods including televisions, radios, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, sound systems and computers are being added to the environment in bulk. We fully agree. That is the environmental concern.
However almost all of these are luxury goods while mobile and CDMA phones are increasingly used by the poor. So why should poor pay for clearing the e-waste of the rich? Why not impose an environmental levy on all electronic goods?
May CEA Chairman please explain?