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In this issue

When discussing the squeeze, politicians ponder those in the middle of the income distribution; or ones who are neither rich nor so poor. Although the economy kept growth through a 30-year-long conflict, not everyone in the income spectrum benefited. Partly this was because Sri Lanka’s integration with the rest of the world helped some, more than others. But many disconnects suggest that globalisation isn’t growing incomes from the middle outwards. In this issue, we look at income taxes, and how at the equivalent of 2% of GDP, their low contribution to government revenue undermines social infrastructure. An upper-middle-income country like Sri Lanka would be expected to have an income tax contribution to revenue at least three times greater than it does now have. Three times higher income tax contribution won’t by itself solve the anaemic revenue issue, but it is at least half the solution. Contribution from consumption and other taxes must also rise. Our cover story this month explores the decline that started in 1990 and accelerated until tax collections were halved. Despite some years of trying, and tight-fisted budgets that kept the government deficit in check, tax revenue has not budged from its bottom of the pit level.

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