Budget likely to continue tile import restrictions

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Despite continuous requests from the Tile and Sanitaryware Importers Association (TSIA) to ease the ongoing import ban, the Treasury is most likely to maintain this imposition until further notice, The Sunday Morning Business reliably learns. 

A top source from the Ministry of Trade, on condition of anonymity, revealed to us that the Government of Sri Lanka may take the decision to not relax the current import ban, which was imposed on tile, during the forthcoming Budget 2022.

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“The Treasury has not held discussions with relevant authorities and stakeholders to relax this ongoing ban, and there is no enthusiasm shown by the Government thus far to do so. Therefore, it is highly possible for the Government to not relax the ban during the upcoming Budget,” the official noted. 

Moreover, responding to a text message sent by us, Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle stated that the decision to lift the import ban during the upcoming Budget has not been finalised at the moment. 

“No decision yet,” Attygalle said. 

All attempts to reach the State Minister of Rural Housing and Construction and Building Material Industries Indika Anuruddha Herath to get further clarification proved futile. 

Addressing the present challenges existing in the industry, TSIA President Kamil Hussain, speaking to us, stated that the TSIA is awaiting a positive response from the Government in the upcoming Budget, as the livelihood of the remaining 50% of importers depend on this decision. 

“We have over 100 importers. Currently, about 50% of them have decided to close down their businesses, and the remaining 50% are purchasing raw materials from local manufacturers in low quantities to survive until the Treasury relaxes the temporary suspension on imports. However, if there is no positive response, the balance 50% will have to shut down and the entire import community will cease to exist,” Hussain explained. 

Elaborating further, he mentioned that due to the import ban, the revenue generated towards the Government has also been impacted, as the tile importing community has contributed almost Rs. 1 billion per month, thereby totalling around Rs. 12 billion per year to the Government through import taxes.  

Commenting further, Hussain mentioned that the Government could at least grant a licence to import tile of a specific quantity, or give permission to the importers who have sufficient dollars in the bank so that the businesses could choose to survive until this challenging period is over. 

“We know there’s a challenge with dollars, so we humbly request the Government to give a positive response for businesses to survive,” he added. 

Meanwhile, speaking to us in August last year, State Minister of Rural Housing and Construction and Building Materials Industries Indika Anuruddha Herath said that no decision has been taken to relax the import restriction placed on tiles and ceramic ware, as local manufactures already have sufficient stocks.

“The President is only going to consider the requests made for building materials that are in short supply in the country at the moment and will give directives to import such material. At present, we have sufficient tile and ceramic products to supply the country’s requirements. We will first give priority to the stocks that are made available by the local manufacturers,” Herath said. 

Mid-March last year, the Sri Lankan Government introduced import restrictions on non-essential items to avoid a possible foreign exchange crisis in Sri Lanka. However, on 1 April 2020, this was revised to include all import items except pharmaceuticals and fuel. Despite the restriction, necessary raw materials required for export purposes were allowed to be brought into the country.

Source:themorning

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