Media coverage for e commerce and tax related comments at dissemination event

Posted on December 7, 2016  /  0 Comments

Our intention was to introduce the Digital Dividends report of the World Bank and disseminate related research conducted by LIRNEasia. We made the headlines in two newspapers but the focus was the controversy around excessive taxes more than on the research. But I was happy there was at least one quotation that referred to the Systematic Review research.

“Airbnb has been in Sri Lanka and they have been in discussion with the Government about collecting taxes and giving it to the Government. Now that is a model that can work, but the centralised platform where everybody will have to go to some kind of .lk platform versus Amazon — I am personally sceptical,” he added. Prof. Samarajiva opined that stakeholders could have issues with the language the Finance Minister used to lay out the policy in Budget 2017, which might have been influenced by parties in the hotel and taxi industries pointing out that these online platforms owe taxes to the Government.

Prof. Samarajiva emphasised that Paypal refused to enter Sri Lanka not because of the Government but because they do not consider the country a sizable market.

“The Government has been pleading and begging Paypal to link Sri Lanka. Paypal is not giving that facility to Sri Lanka. That is nothing to do with security. For Paypal, Sri Lanka doesn’t matter. India matters because it is a big market. So if we try to pay all kinds of rules they don’t want to deal with us anyway,” he said.

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“What does the research say? When you give people affordable network connectivity that they can use, either voice or internet, you’re likely to see very good results—contributions to the economy, contributions to their livelihood. Good things will happen,” Prof. Samarajiva said. He noted that evidence was murky to support Karunanayake’s standing. “When the government takes that money, reduces that (network connectivity), discourages that by taxing the hell out of it, and the government will, using its wisdom, provide services. I’m not saying it won’t do any good. I’m saying the evidence is not clear,” Prof. Samarajiva said.

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