Nov 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka's parliament on Wednesday passed the "Revival of Underperforming and Underutilized Assets" bill with amendments empowering the government to take over some 37 businesses that have not performed up to the government's expectations.
The expropriation bill presented to the parliament yesterday by the Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne amid strong objection from the opposition parties passed with a majority of 76 votes following the debate today.
The parliament voted 122 in favor of the bill and 46 against it. The opposition parties, United National Party, Tamil National Alliance and the Marxist party Democratic National Alliance voted against the bill.
The controversial bill came under severe opposition from the business community, opposition parties and some sectors of Buddhist monks despite the government's assurance that the proposed legislation is a 'one time only' bill.
The proposed takeover of underperforming businesses includes two listed companies, Pelwatte Sugar Industries and Sevanagala Sugar Industries.
During the debate Minister Jagath Pushpakumara told parliament that before venturing out the Sevanagala sugar producing facility to the private sector, the country's domestic sugar production was at 12 percent of the total need but under the private management the domestic sugar production dropped to 4 percent.
The Minister has explained further that the company has breached the terms and conditions of the business agreement by producing liquor.
He also has pointed out that the number of employees in the permanent cadre of the factory dropped to 168 at present from 800 in 2002, and an additional 1,200 casual employees have also been removed.
The parliament has taken the points raised by the Minister into account in their decision to nationalize the Sevanagala sugar manufacturing facility owned by the key UNP financier Opposition Leader of the Eastern provincial Council Daya Gamage.
The Supreme Court Tuesday cleared the bill saying that subject to the correction of drafting errors, the Bill or any of its clauses have not been found inconsistent with the Constitution.
The legislation according to the government would help revive loss making entities by converting them to profit making ones.
The 37 businesses, earmarked for takeover that includes one underperforming enterprise and 36 underutilized assets, have been given to investors years ago by the state.