COLOMBO, March 15 (Xinhua) -- The Sri Lankan government is introducing new laws next week to pave the way for large casinos to operate in the island but the main opposition on Friday criticized the attempts as being opaque and leading to the moral downfall of the country.
The main opposition, United National Party MP and economist Dr. Harsha de Silva told media that the government's hurried plans to amend the Betting and Gaming Act in parliament next week lacked transparency and allowed too many tax concessions.
The MP argued that exemptions on a plethora of taxes including value added tax and nation building tax would reduce revenue for public expenditure and accused the government of assisting businesses that would lead to the social and moral decline of the country.
He also questioned as to why casinos have been included in the Strategic Development Act, which is only meant for projects that promote social and economic welfare for the entire population.
"So what happens under this Act is that these people are given enormous tax benefits, some going as much as 25 years of tax exemptions. And also I must say that out of the nine casinos operating in Colombo only five are registered, which is an unfair taxation policy by the government," he said.
Dr. de Silva charged that it was unfair to give massive tax exemptions to lucrative businesses but tax every item essential for the poor.
"If these are the future policies of the government they must clearly state it rather than trying to rush bills through parliament. This is especially crucial since people cannot appeal to the Supreme Court to change a law once it has been passed," he added.
Plans to fast track casino investments come after Australian billionaire gaming mogul James Packer visited the country in February to explore prospects for a mega gaming venture in Sri Lanka.
Since the end of a three decade war in 2009 Sri Lanka's tourism industry has boomed attracting related industries to the country that hopes to attract 2.6 million arrivals by 2016.