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Salary increase for striking public servants would require VAT hike: Treasury Secretary
  • The salary demands of striking public servants would require increasing the VAT from the current 18% to between 20%-23%, which is not viable. This highlights the significant fiscal challenge and the necessity for sustainable revenue sources or other fiscal adjustments to manage the proposed salary increases, while avoiding further economic strain and jeopardizing the IMF program.


Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana stated that meeting the salary demands of striking public servants would necessitate increasing the current Value Added Tax (VAT) from 18% to between 20%-21%. During a discussion with President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat, Siriwardana explained that imposing such a burden on the public is not viable. The meeting, which addressed the trade union actions taken by several public service unions, sought to explore potential solutions to their demands. Siriwardana highlighted that while a salary increase is not feasible this year, there is a plan to revise public service salaries in the 2025 Budget, based on recommendations from an expert committee investigating salary disparities. He noted that a salary increase of Rs. 10,000 for Government employees would require an additional Rs. 140 billion annually and an increase of Rs. 20,000 would necessitate an additional Rs. 280 billion. To generate the required income, even with optimal management of current revenues, additional tax increases will be necessary. He explained that to raise salaries by Rs. 10,000, the VAT would need to be increased by 2%. Meeting the trade unions’ wage demands would require raising the VAT by more than 3%, but with the VAT already at a maximum rate of 18%, further increases are not feasible at this time.

Separately, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe expressed concerns over the significant fiscal challenge posed by the proposed Rs. 20,000 monthly increase in public sector salaries. The adjustment, estimated to cost Rs. 275 billion annually, equivalent to 1% of GDP, demands sustainable revenue sources or other fiscal adjustments. One potential approach to generating the necessary revenue is to increase VAT by 4.75%, raising it to nearly 23%, or to elevate the corporate tax rate to 42%. However, Semasinghe warned that such measures could strain the economy further, potentially increasing the primary budget deficit, jeopardizing debt restructuring efforts, and derailing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program. These adjustments could lead to a recurrence of the severe economic and social conditions experienced in 2022. He asserted that a path to economic recovery and growth requires the cooperation of every individual, community, and institution. With continued support, the nation can navigate these challenges and work towards a more robust economy. Siriwardana also highlighted that the Government’s efforts to stabilize the country’s economy mean that the Central Bank can no longer print money as it did before, as this would jeopardize the program with the IMF.

Salary increase for striking public servants would require VAT hike: Treasury Secretary | Daily FT

Daily FT