National People’s Power (NPP) MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, known for her candidness and thoughtful approach to politics, sat down for an insightful conversation to address pressing issues concerning political alliances, economic reforms, and the path forward for the NPP.
Q: You have mentioned that you cannot make alliances with MP Dallas’ Alahapperuma’s team due to concerns about corruption and a rejected political culture. Can you elaborate on this stance?
A: While we have not engaged in formal discussions about forming alliances, we have certainly been evaluating the current political landscape. One of our concerns is that certain individuals in these alliances have been rejected by the people, and their political culture doesn’t align with our values. The rejection by the people and the involvement in issues harmful to the country make it challenging for us to consider forming alliances with such groups. Our discussions primarily revolve around understanding the existing political environment.
Q: Does this mean that people have reservations about Dallas’ team because they represent individuals involved in activities detrimental to the nation?
A: Precisely. The current Government comprises former members of the same Government. Corruption and fraud are among the issues that have tarnished their reputation in the eyes of the public. Moreover, their involvement in amending key Constitutional provisions, such as the 19th and 21st amendments, further widens the gap between our positions.
Q: Is there a possibility of you running as the Presidential candidate of the National People’s Party?
A: No, there has never been a discussion within our party about me running as a presidential candidate. We are unequivocal in our support for our leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake as our Presidential candidate. He is the leader of our party, and we believe that he will lead us in the upcoming elections to bring about the change that the people all over the country expect.
Q: Can you shed light on how your party plans to address the country’s economic challenges, particularly in relation to the heavy burden of public sector salaries and debt interest?
A: Indeed, our approach differs from the current Government’s focus on local and foreign debt restructuring alone. While we acknowledge the need for debt restructuring at this stage, we believe it should be part of a broader economic development strategy. The current Government’s approach of cutting public sector salaries to manage debt is detrimental to the people as it shrinks the economy.
Essentially, they are borrowing to repay debts, which does not benefit the people in any way. Our vision involves debt restructuring as an integral part of economic growth rather than a burden on the people. We aim to increase people’s incomes and national revenue to address this issue.
Q: What measures will your party take to increase tax revenue in a fair manner?
A: Taxation is essential for running a Government in any country, but it must be fair and justly distributed. Currently, a significant portion of the Government’s income comes from indirect taxes such as Value Added Tax (VAT) that heavily burdens the common people. Large-scale businesses often enjoy big tax breaks. Our approach is to introduce a fair tax system that alleviates the tax burden on the average citizen. We believe in taxing those who have been evading taxes, including those with black money. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) will also be provided relief. Our goal is to ensure that taxes are not a burden but an investment in the country’s development.
Q: Sri Lanka’s direct tax revenue is currently around 30 percent. How do you plan to increase this?
A: We intend to implement a fair system for collecting direct taxes, including asset-based taxation. By reducing cash transactions and embracing digital alternatives, we aim to minimise opportunities for money laundering and black money. Taxation should be simplified and made fully transparent to ensure that everyone contributes fairly.
Q: Won’t increasing direct taxes risk driving away foreign investors already in the country and those seeking to invest here?
A: The challenge for foreign investors is not primarily related to tax rates but rather the ease of doing business. We rank rather low in the Global Ease of Doing Business rankings. We must create a conducive environment for all investors, local or foreign. It is essential to simplify tax payment processes, eliminate unnecessary commissions, and tackle widespread corruption. Our tax system should be designed to encourage investment rather than deter it.
Q: Can you provide an alternative to subsidies?
A: Instead of subsidies, we advocate for a robust social security system that ensures those in need receive support. The key is to eradicate corruption within the social security system and ensure that it reaches the deserving recipients efficiently. Indeed, corruption-free social security can alleviate the need for certain subsidies.
Translated by Dinuli Francisco