By Ven. Udagama Sumangala, Los Angeles, California
President John F. Kennedy’s most memorable quote, which is from his inaugural address in January of 1960, is: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!” I’ll never forget hearing this when it was first spoken, and I can’t help but seeing its relevance now for Sri Lanka.
We are grateful that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka, and the entire staff of the combined armed forces have at last defeated the LTTE for the benefit of each and every Sri Lankan. They spent a great deal of the country’s wealth in order to accomplish this monumental feat, but the money they spent was an investment in the future – OUR future. Without this investment, our country as we know it might not have any future, and we could still be living in the brutal arms of terrorism. Sri Lanka could have become a divided island, with two nations instead of one; divided by race, philosophy, religion, political perspective, and goals.
Now it’s time for all of us as Sri Lankans – no matter in which country we live – to invest in Sri Lanka’s future. Here’s what all of us can do for our country:
The Central Bank is introducing Dollar Denominated Development Bonds, which will be available by mid-June. Sri Lankans in any country can buy these as an investment opportunity in various denominations, and the Government will repay them with interest.
Another way to invest in Sri Lanka is for all Sri Lankan expatriates to open Non-Resident Foreign Currency (NRFC) accounts. These are for Sri Lankans who are employed abroad, or for those who have become residents or citizens of other countries. It is an incentive given to them to repatriate their earnings to Sri Lanka by permitting them to maintain accounts in designated foreign currencies.
The following groups and individuals are eligible for NRFC accounts:
- Sri Lankan citizens employed abroad.
- Sri Lankan citizens who had been employed abroad and returned to Sri Lanka provided the account is opened within 90 days of their return to Sri Lanka.
- Sri Lankans who are now citizens of other countries.
- Accounts maintained in foreign currency.
- Available in the form of Savings or Fixed Deposit accounts.
- Interest earned in foreign exchange.
- 20% bonus interest on interest earned.
- Funds can be remitted for authorized purposes without any Exchange Control approval.
- Interest income exempted from income tax.
- Eligible for Foreign currency housing loans.
- SET card facility.
The Western Powers are hinting that the US$ 1.9 billion loan Sri Lanka seeks from the IMF may be delayed, and there are rumors that even if it goes through there may be conditions attached to it that might be unacceptable to our Sovereign Nation. Buying bonds and opening NRFC accounts will bring foreign currency into the country, and help the Government weather the current economic storm.
The first war has been won: the war against terrorism. Now it is our turn as Sri Lankans to help the Government win the next war: the economic war for survival. We can all help. Please act today.
May you have the Blessings of the Triple Gem.