Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando flanked by Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Ministry Secretary Wasantha Deshapriya addressing the media - Pic by Waruna Wanniarachchi
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Although the government has been on the lookout for new avenues to boost its coffers, it is yet to plug the revenue leakages that amount to approximately US $ 2 million per day due to the non-digitisation of state agencies, the country’s telecom minister pointed out.
Speaking to a group of journalists in Colombo following the kick-off of Sri Lanka Broadband Forum 2016 yesterday, Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando said, “From what we have realized, the complete leakage was due to the non-digitisation of state agencies, such as the Customs and Inland Revenue Department, is of about US $ 2 million a day.”
Citing an example, he said cases have been reported of deceased employees still receiving pensions under their name. Such, he said, needs to be rectified, and the implementation of the Household Transfer Management (HTM) project is one of the many avenues conceptualised to correct the prevailing shortcomings.
“Digitisation is a process. It cannot be done overnight. From the legal systems to the customs, we are looking to have them embrace digitisation. For that we are working on a certain model,” said Fernando, and pointed out that 2017 would be an interesting year for digitization in Sri Lanka.
While acknowledging there is a lack of readiness within the government agencies to go ahead with the ambitious plan in this regard, the minister asserted the process must start immediately.
“We need to start from somewhere. We cannot keep on delaying this. We still have issues with regard to the government officers. Some of them may not be ready but we need to start from somewhere,” stressed Fernando. He added that although Sri Lanka is embracing this development much later than most of its regional peers, the delay is advantageous since integration and linking can easily be achieved.
Harin gives ultimatum to SLT
Unimpressed in the manner in which state-controlled Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) PLC is carrying out its activities, Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando yesterday implied that the entity has been given an ultimatum to either fall in line or gear up to face fierce competition.
Stating that the company is too comfortable in the current set up, the minister said the government is “trying” to develop another company so that SLT steps up its efforts.
Not failing to point out that the newly formed ministry is responsible for SLT and Mobitel, he said, “There is a monopoly with SLT. I agree and completely believe that there should be market forces to take this over.
We are trying to develop another company – a semi-government owned company to compete with SLT itself. I have told them to fall in line or this will be formed.”
The minister charged that the institution is highly unionized and it adds on to the delays of executing plans laid out to boot the nation’s ICT infrastructure.
“SLT sometimes feel that they are very comfortable and that they are the only ones in the market doing it. It all works in their minds,” he said, while highlighting the strategies that would be employed to increase the broadband penetration in the country. (SAA)