State robbery

by Chris Bertram on June 17, 2005

Around a million dollars donated in the wake of the Tsunami is being “stolen by the government of Sri Lanka”: , reports the BBC:

bq. British charity Oxfam has had to pay the Sri Lankan government $1m in import duty for vehicles used in tsunami reconstruction work.

bq. Paperwork had kept the 25 four-wheel drive vehicles idle in the capital, Colombo, for a month.

bq. The Sri Lankan government told the BBC News website the aid had been duty-free until the end of April but was now needed to prevent “market distortions”.



Tim Worstall 06.17.05 at 12:13 pm

But, but, I thought it was generally accepted that governments know how to spend money better than private sector actors?


Matt 06.17.05 at 12:19 pm

While this seems like a bad particular instance, I don’t think that this policy, in general, is clearly objectionable. I’d be shocked if there were not lots of people attempting to bring in goods for “tsunami relief” that will either immediately or very soon be sold on the normal market. It seems reasonable to reimpose a tarrif, of one has them at all, once the most immediate danger is over. I think it’s quite doubtful that Oxfam is going to re-sell these vehicles for a profit afterwards, so this particular case does seem bad, but the policy in general of putting the tariff back in place at this point and granting particular exceptions doesn’t seem bad. It also seems a bit much to say that the government is stealing this money if it’s going into a general fund. It may be a bad policy, but it doesn’t seem to be stealing. I suspect what’s happening is that to get the “exception” one must bribe the right people and Oxfam didn’t do that. This is a problem w/ exceptions.


albert 06.17.05 at 1:13 pm

Shame on me, but…

Tim- There’s no government spending going on here. Yes, shame on the Sri Lankan government for this, but shame on you for lazy liberalism and trollism.


jet 06.17.05 at 1:16 pm

Oxfam should play hardball and inform the government that aid will not be forthcoming while it is being taxed. Aid relief, corruption, and desperate third world disasters, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


Otto 06.17.05 at 1:21 pm

“Around a million dollars donated in the wake of the Tsunami is being stolen by the government of Sri Lanka , reports the BBC”

Why is anyone surprised by this?


fjm 06.17.05 at 4:36 pm

Except that the Sri Lankan government might have a point about not wanting to distort the market. Aid can destroy an economy: relief workers in some African countries are starting to reject donated clothing because its impact on the local clothing manufacturies are so severe.


Reality-based liberal 06.19.05 at 12:27 am

The money isn’t being stolen. Stealing is when a private entity takes something without asking. When a government does it, it’s taxation. Applying the same standard of morality to the acts of governments as one would apply to the acts of private entities is faith-based libertarian idiocy.

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