Sri Lanka will consider a tax amnesty program for the tourism industry in a bid to help companies recover from the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that killed more than 250 people, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.
The industry has requested tax waivers, including on the importation of security gear, in the aftermath of the blasts that targeted foreigners and churchgoers, Samaraweera told Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin on the sidelines of Asian Development Bank meetings in Fiji.
“With the right kind of action, I would say tourism could bounce back to normalcy within a short period of one to one and a half years,” he said. That’s been the experience in destinations such as Tunisia and Bali, which faced similar attacks in the past, he added.
The terror attacks are poised to hit tourism, which accounts for 5 percent of the $87 billion economy, as visitors flee from the nation famous for the Temple of Tooth, Dambulla Caves and coconut-fringed beaches. Sri Lanka has been struggling to revive growth following a three-decade long civil conflict that ended in 2009 and political turmoil last year. Arrivals have increased more than fivefold since the war ended and revenue from the industry is near a record.
Sri Lanka’s Catholic Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith on Thursday warned of the potential for further attacks, the Associated Press reported. The cardinal had received “foreign information” that terrorists may stage an attack on a church and another church institution, the AP reported, citing a letter he sent Thursday to church officials.
Central bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy earlier said it was still too early to quantify the effect the decline in tourism will have on economic growth, which slowed to 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the weakest pace since the start of 2014.
“The biggest risk would be continuation of such attacks,” Samaraweera said. “We think we can manage it, hoping it would not recur again. Sri Lanka’s economy is moving slowly, but soundly.”
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