Many governments, including the present one, have been criticised for splurging on ads when it was not needed, and being close-fisted when more generous spending on marketing a particular effort was required. However, the Union government has got it right with its new campaign to dispel misinformation and lack of clarity on GST via advertisements across media. While demonetisation had led to rumours of prices of salt and sugar increasing with certain retailers charging higher prices, the government has done well to pre-empt such canards about GST. By specifying the rates applicable on items of daily use like milk, wheat, rice, soap, sugar, toothpaste, it has signalled that it is ready to pull all stops to prevent unscrupulous elements benefiting off the teething troubles of GST by fleecing consumers. There is a definite PR-ish feel to campaign—the ads feature onlty those items for which the tax rate has fallen or remains unchanged— but given the initial confusion is fertile ground for price gouging, the government has done well to state the rates up front and clear.
The effort, however, should not be limited to just this instance, as misinformation or incomplete information on many initiatives abound, especially on social media. The government can very well take the ads route to promote its digital payment initiatives—BHIM, for instance, could use some concentrated marketing efforts. With the BJP trying its best to show this as a personal victory for the prime minister and asking its legislators to promote GST across the country, it would do well to engage its machinery to address people’s concerns on prices as well. More important, the government needs to ensure that there is a constant stream of information to counter rumours, if any, about prices increasing under the new tax regime for the next few months.