Respected Prem Lata Ji, President, All India Federation of Tax Practitioners, Sanjay Sharma Ji, Secretary General, Respected Members, Ladies & Gentlemen:

As I stand before you today, I am conscious that tax is a reality, though the best things in life, are usually free!

I am happy to be here this evening, at the International Conference, organised by All India Federation of Tax Practitioners. I am glad, that you have chosen Sri Lanka, as the venue for your Conference. This Conference happens at a time when Sri Lanka is making efforts, to be a financial hub, in the Indian Ocean Region.

The theme of your Conference is apt: ‘the role of tax professionals, in global economy.’ Many of you are Chartered Accountants; and Advocates by profession. Tax professionals have an important role to play in today’s world.

We are going through interesting times. There is a renewed focus worldwide on ‘good governance’. Governments are genuinely, making an attempt to make a difference to the lives of average citizens. This is visible as ‘Susha san’ in India as ‘yaha palan aya’ in Sri Lanka.

Rapid socio-economic development is the need of the hour. The developmental aspirations of our 1.25 billion people need to be met and met quickly. Taxation is the most potent tool, available to vitalise and channelise economic development. Taxation is no longer a process of gathering resources, for the survival of State. It is one of the most effective means available to the State, to ensure growth with equity. Taxation is the fiscal arm, used by the modern State today to achieve its socio-economic objectives.

As the world awaits the roll-out of Goods & Services Tax (GST) from July, which is the biggest tax reform in India, that has happened so far, I see your role, becoming more crucial. We hope to see several, positive externalities, from the creation of a single national market, through GST. Economists are predicting, an addition of 2% growth, in India’s GDP, from the roll-out of GST.

The demonetisation and, the currency reform initiative, in India, are expected to increase, tax compliance, and economic growth, in the medium term.

India also, has currently the largest, financial inclusion programme, in the world.

You would agree, that the change has been, phenomenal. You, as tax practitioners, and advisors, have to interpret and implement, the change. Our flagship programmes,
can only succeed, with your active participation.

The increasing use of technology, in your field, has been a boon. Even Albert Einstein, has confessed, that income tax is the hardest thing to understand in the world. With information and processing, all going online, things have changed; however, your profession continues, to remain highly specialised, and intricate. I am glad that All India Federation of Tax Practitioners, has been playing a seminal role in educating the public about tax matters.

India-Sri Lanka, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, which we entered in to 2013, updating our earlier agreement, on tax avoidance, has been an important step, in the bilateral economic engagement.

I would like to give you, a snapshot of India-Sri Lanka, bilateral economic partnership, which has become an important pillar, of our bilateral engagement, in recent years. As Prime Minister Modi said during his recent visit to Sri Lanka as Chief Guest for International Vesak celebrations, “we are at a moment of great opportunity, in our ties with Sri Lanka." India’s rapid growth, can bring dividends, for the entire region, especially in Sri Lanka. There is a lot that we can do together.

India is also among the top investors in SL, with accumulated investments, of more than a billion dollars, in the last 15 years. Investments worth US$ 1 billion, are in the pipeline.

We are interested, in making investments in energy; hard infrastructure and connectivity projects, in Sri Lanka. We have a robust, development partnership. An MoU, which provides a framework for co-operation, in joint economic projects, was signed during the visit, of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, H.E. Ranil Wickremesinghe in April.

Sri Lanka is, India’s second largest trade partner in South Asia, with annual trade, of more than US$ 4.6 billion. India and Sri Lanka, entered into an FTA, in 2000, the first for both countries. Total trade has increased 8 times since then.

We are keen to integrate, Sri Lankan economy in the global supply, and value chain. We are ready to share our skill set, with Sri Lanka. We are trying to upgrade, the FTA, to cover investment and services. Negotiations are underway, on the Economic and Technological Co-operation Agreement (ETCA).

Sri Lanka became a proud partner in the South Asia Satellite, which India launched on 5yh May.

Prime Minister is committed to ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy. The latest example of this, is the swiftness, with which our Navy, came to Sri Lanka’s assistance, during flood relief. Within hours of Sri Lanka’s request, our ships were here, and undertook rescue, relief and medical operations.

As we move the path of Sabka sath Sabka vikas with our neighbours, I see an increasing role, for us to work together, to disseminate information, to the world, regarding the economic revolution, that is happening in India. We could also, bring home stories of success, which may be worthy of emulation. I count on your support, in this regard.

Thank you.

[Source : Keynote address delivered at Conference held on 7th June, 2017 at Hotel Cinnamon Lake side, Colombo, Sri Lanka]

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