Government to acquire land of plantation companies with gem deposits

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

The Government has decided to acquire uncultivated lands with gem deposits belonging to plantation companies.

The President’s office said that a decision was taken today to remove the barriers that had obstructed the release of uncultivated lands with gem deposits belonging to plantation companies and to take control of these lands for the benefit of the mining industry.

The decision was taken at a meeting held between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Minister Wimal Weerawansa, State Minister Lohan Ratwatte, Head of the Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival, Basil Rajapaksa, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Officers of the Line Ministries and gem and jewellery industrialists.

Unregulated and illicit gem mining is taking place in areas containing rich gem deposits of the Ratnapura District on large scale. President Rajapaksa urged officials to immediately halt the gem mining activities that are carried out in a harmful manner to the environment and remove barriers to the traditional gem mining industry.

At the meeting President Rajapaksa decided to remove the 14% income tax imposed on the profit earned by gem and jewellery manufacturers and the 15% tax on gold imports.

The income tax concession given to the gem and jewellery industry since 1971 was done away with under the income tax policy introduced in 2017. This created a situation where the actual income earned from the export of gem and jewellery could not be disclosed.

In 2018, a 15% tax was imposed on gold imports. This has resulted in jewellery prices going up. The President pointed out the necessity of removing relevant taxes immediately and to take steps to uplift the gem and jewellery industry.

The President’s office said that 14 proposals put forward by State Minister Lohan Ratawatta to resolve the issues pertaining to Sri Lanka’s inability to become the global hub for gem were discussed in length. Minister Ratwatte highlighted the importance of facilitating the importation of high priced gems unique to other countries and are not found in Sri Lanka and maintaining a gem reserve.

President Rajapaksa said that all relevant institutions should be brought into one place to avoid delays in the issuance of gem mining licenses. He further instructed the state-owned banks to provide a loan of Rs. 1 million at a concessionary interest rate of 4%, to jewellery manufacturers and traditional jewellers to purchase gold.