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GST’s outcome: 2017 registered as the most significant year for economy since Independence

The new indirect tax regime unifying the Indian market has four tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.

Earlier this year, World Bank announced that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings
Earlier this year, World Bank announced that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings

New Delhi, Dec 25: The 70th year since Independence will go down in Indian history since the country switched over to the  (GST) regime, realising, thereby, the vision of a unified market in a federal system that guided the nationalist bourgeoisie in joining Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle to liberate India from the British.

Of course, the structural reform came accompanied by pain for trade and industry caught off-guard by the rigours of new compliance procedures. Queried by corporate leaders at industry chamber Ficci’s 90th AGM here earlier this month on how GST was impacting through lower tax collections, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley put the onus on them.

“It is you from industry, who have been calling for so long to bring GST… and no sooner do these initial problems in implementing a reform of such scale appear, then you want to go back to the system we’ve had for 70 years,” he said.

The earlier system was a myriad of central and state taxes where the movement of goods was slowed down by-products being taxed multiple times and at different rates.

State level taxes replaced by the pan-India GST include state cesses and surcharges, luxury tax, state VAT, purchase tax, central sales tax, taxes on advertisements, entertainment tax, various forms of entry tax, and taxes on lotteries and betting.

Central taxes replaced by GST are service tax, special additional customs duties (SAD), additional excise duties on goods of special importance, central excise, additional customs duties, excise on medicinal and toilet preparations, additional excise duties on textiles and textile products, and cesses and surcharges.

The new indirect tax regime unifying the Indian market has four tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.

It has a novel feature whereby goods and services providers get the benefit of input tax credit for the goods used, effectively making the real incidence of taxation lower than the headline taxation rate.

Indian economy has surged many folds after the introduction of new tax structure
Indian economy has surged many folds after the introduction of new tax structure

The second half of the year saw a radical reworking of the items within the four-slab tax structure by the supremely federal institution of the GST Council, whereby all but 50 of over 1,200 items remained in the highest 28 per cent bracket. Those retained included luxury and sin items, the cess on which goes to fund the compensation to states for the loss of revenue arising from implementing GST.

With the Council’s decisions last month, GST has been cut on a host of consumer items such as chocolates, chewing gum, shampoos, deodorants, shoe polish, detergents, nutrition drinks, marble and cosmetics. Luxury goods such as washing machines and air conditioners have been retained at 28 per cent.

Eating out has become cheaper as all restaurants outside high-end hotels charging over Rs 7,500 per room will uniformly levy GST of five per cent. The facility of input tax credit for restaurants has, however, been withdrawn as they had not passed on this benefit to consumers.

Petroleum, including oil and gas, is a strategic sector that is still not under GST, while the industry has been pushing for its inclusion so as not to be deprived of the benefits of input credit.

Including real estate is another matter pending before the GST Council.

On the functioning of the Council, Jaitley who is its head had this remarkable insight about the way in which it had effected such large-scale rationalisation of the item rates in a short span of “3-4 months”.

“Everything has been achieved by consensus in the best spirit of cooperative federalism. There has been no politics, even from states which are controlled by opposition parties,” he told a gathering of industry leaders here.

The other side of GST was revealed through what the International Monetary Fund described as “short-term disruptions”.

With businesses going into a “de-stocking” mode on inventories in anticipation of the GST rollout from July and sluggish manufacturing growth, among other factors, pulled down growth in the Indian economy during the first quarter of this fiscal to 5.7 per cent, clocking the lowest under the Narendra Modi dispensation. Breaking a five-quarter slump, a rise in manufacturing sector output, however, pushed the growth rate higher to 6.3 per cent during the second quarter (July-September) of 2017-18.

Besides, technical glitches appearing on the GST Network portal, often unable to take a load of the last-minute rush to file returns, marred the filing of returns by traders, forcing the government to postpone filing deadlines several times. The glitches also led to export refunds piling up, resulting in a grave situation of the cash crunch for exporters, whose working capital was getting blocked.

In the final analysis, the GST balance sheet is provided by Gita Gopinath, Professor of International Studies and Economies at Harvard University, who is also the economic adviser to the Kerala Chief Minister.

“GST is a real reform. It is a way of formalising the economy. It is a very effective way of ensuring tax compliance, making it harder to earn black money. I mean, nothing ever goes away completely, but it just makes it harder to make it happen,” Gopinath said in Mumbai earlier this month. 

The icing on the cake came with the World Bank announcing earlier this year that India had jumped 30 places in its Ease of Doing Business rankings to get among the top 100 countries on the list. Though reforms in India’s direct tax regime figured among the parameters considered in the evaluation, GST had not been taken into account by the multilateral agency since their cut-off date was June 30. IANS

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For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

Perhaps the BJP's only solace at the moment is that its opponents haven't been able to get their act together

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia
  • Many believe that Modi and BJP are now no longer is a favourable place
  • The new policies are not getting public approval
  • If situation isn’t handled carefully, 2019 elections will be steeper for BJP

For the Bharatiya Janata Party’s supporters, the growing belief that the party is no longer as favourably placed as before must be both bewildering and disheartening.

They must be wondering what could have gone wrong when the BJP was looking forward to not only a comfortable victory in 2019 but was also planning to celebrate the 75th year of India’s independence in 2022.

Is the Modi-magic vanishing?  Wikimedia Commons
Is the Modi-magic vanishing? Wikimedia Commons

The talk of a “New India” under the BJP’s near-permanent control was in the air with both Nitish Kumar and Omar Abdullah from two opposite sides of the political spectrum saying that Narendra Modi faced no challenge.

Yet, the scene has changed. What is more, it has happened so over a rather short period of time. Among the reasons for it may be the BJP’s electoral setbacks in, first, the Chitrakoot assembly byelection in Madhya Pradesh in November last year, the near-defeat it faced in the Gujarat assembly polls in the following month and finally the huge margins by which it recently lost three byelections in Rajasthan.

Before these contests, the successes of the Congress’s student wing in the Delhi University and of a leftist union in the Jawaharlal Nehru University student union elections over the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the saffron brotherhood’s student wing, were significant pointers to the emerging trends.

BJP will definitely see a tough time in 2019 elections. Wikimedia commons
BJP will definitely see a tough time in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons

The new scenario has now led to conjectures about a fall in the BJP’s number of Lok Sabha seats to 200/220 from the present 282 in a House of 545. Since these figures have been mentioned by a saffron scribe, it is obvious that assessments on these lines are currently on in the BJP. Another scribe has identified the absence of effective speakers other than Modi as one of the factors behind the BJP’s slide in popularity.

Perhaps one of the first to say openly that the Modi magic was fading was a Shiv Sena spokesperson, who also noted the change in Rahul Gandhi’s “body language” and his transformation into a credible leader. Not long after, the Sena decided not to align with the BJP in 2019.

Also Read: Editorial Freedom Should be used Wisely in Public Interest says PM Narendra Modi to Media

The BJP’s old ally is not the only party to begin thinking of greener pastures. The Telugu Desam Party, too, has expressed its displeasure over the “neglect” of Andhra Pradesh in the Union budget. To forestall a rupture, the BJP has offered the Shiv Sena 144 seats in Maharashtra in an assembly of 288 seats, but the generous gesture is more indicative of the BJP’s nervousness than of magnanimity.

So, what went wrong for a party which was riding high during the first three years of its tenure?

First and foremost reason is its failure to usher in the promised “achhe din” or better days because of a sluggish economy. The scene might have been better but for the twin blows of demonetisation, which dealt a blow to small businesses, and the shambolic rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which also unsettled the traders and businessmen.

It seems unlikely BJP will be able recreate its historic win in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons
It seems unlikely BJP will be able recreate its historic win in 2019 elections. Wikimedia Commons

The second reason is the widespread rural distress which eroded the BJP’s influence in Gujarat. As a party essentially of urban lower middle class areas, the BJP’s connection with the countryside has never been very strong. In its Jan Sangh days, the party once even forgot to adopt a resolution on agriculture till the lapse was noticed at the last minute.

Modi is now said to have sought the advice of farming experts to reach out to the cultivators. But the move is unlikely to pay immediate political dividends.

To compound the BJP’s problems, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Sangh Parivar’s labour wing, has raised the red flag over the “disappointing” Union budget.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi: Government bringing Stringent Consumer Protection Law

Another explanation for the BJP’s woes is undoubtedly the inability to control the saffron goons, who have been running amok to impose their diktats on diet, inter-faith romance and film scripts, among other things.

The rampages of the cow vigilantes have hit the meat and leather industries and resulted in ageing cows being let loose by their owners to roam the countryside and city streets to forage on their own. Hence the proposal to impose a fine on the “guilty” owners.

The result is the prevalence of an atmosphere of intolerance of the kind which made a section of the intelligentsia return the awards which they had once won in protest against the deteriorating state of affairs in the country.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi 's new policies are not being received well by the public.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ‘s new policies are not being received well by the public.

Perhaps the BJP’s only solace at the moment is that its opponents haven’t been able to get their act together. Moreover, the fissures in their ranks are palpable with a rift in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) over whether to align with the Congress in an anti-BJP front, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) teaming up with the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka on the eve of the assembly elections.

There are also said to be reservations among the senior opposition leaders about accepting Rahul Gandhi as the leader of an alliance.

Karnataka will be the next big electoral battle for the BJP. If it can dislodge the ruling Congress in the state, it will be able to brush aside the party’s setbacks in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Otherwise, the road to 2019 will seem steeper. IANS