COLOMBO, Feb 22 (PTI) Some 40 unions belonging to various sectors on Wednesday urged the heavily indebted Sri Lankan government to scrap tax hikes, warning they would call a nationwide strike on March 1 if their demands are met .
The warnings came as unions from industries including ports, power, electricity, water and telecommunications joined an hour-long protest on Wednesday in solidarity with problems facing businesses due to the tax hike.
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“We have been protesting constantly. We told President Ranil Wickremesinghe that we will launch a one-day strike on March 1,” said Niroshan Gorakanage, a member of the port union.
Ranjan Jayalal, a member of the electricity union, said: “We are here to protest the tax law. Electricity consumers are burdened with high tariffs. We will defeat this government.
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Workers will wear black armbands this week in protest of higher taxes, they said.
The Sri Lankan government began implementing tax increases in January, which are widely believed to have been requested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Sri Lanka will encounter an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. Due to the serious shortage of foreign exchange reserves, it has triggered domestic political turmoil and led to the resignation of the full-power Rajapaksa family.
Last September, the International Monetary Fund approved a four-year, $2.9 billion bailout for Sri Lanka, pending the ability to restructure its debt with creditors, including bilateral and sovereign bondholders.
The $2.9 billion loan is likely to be approved by the IMF’s board in March, subject to assurances from creditors.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe said he knew the burden of high taxes on people, but the high taxes were part of Sri Lanka’s economic rescue efforts.
While union members took to the streets to protest the tax hike, civil society groups demonstrated opposite the electoral commission against what they called the government’s plan to delay local elections on March 9.
“We warn the government and the Election Commission that attempts to postpone elections must stop,” activist Manoj Gamage said.
Although no formal decision on the postponement of the election has been announced, the government’s statement suggests that it may be due to financial difficulties caused by the ongoing economic crisis.
The finance minister had earlier informed the Supreme Court that the government was severely curtailed for lack of funds.
The Supreme Court will hear a petition to delay the vote on Thursday.
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)