FM doubtful of GST rollout; still trying, says Dasgupta

Written by fe Bureaus | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 1 2009, 05:22am hrs
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee admitted for the first time on Friday that the goods and services tax (GST) may not meet its proposed rollout date of April 1, 2010. Ironically, within a couple of hours, the chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers, Asim Dasgupta, said the states have reached a convergence on the overall structure of GST and would strive to meet the scheduled rollout date.

I am trying to stick to the time schedule, but I will not be surprised if there is a slippage of a few months Right now, the empowered committee of state finance ministers is meeting. It means that we are seriously trying for convergence of the views, I am going to have meeting on 10th of next month, Mukherjee said about GSTs prospects at an event in the morning.

The minister said that though a convergence has been arrived at on many issues, some divergences persist among the states. Moreover, even if everyone is on the same page, the transition to the new tax regime would take some more time. It will take some legislative measures, including the Constitutional amendment, and that has its own pace, Mukherjee said.

It is our collective deadline We will put our GST discussion paper for wider circulation on November 10 and along with that, there will be frequently-asked questions. The draft was circulated, states have given their views. So we have taken a convergent position now. This would be our first discussion paper. It would be followed by a second discussion paper, Dasgupta said after a meeting of the empowered committee on Friday.

However, most state FMs at the meeting of the empowered committee echoed Mukherjees views introducing the tax could take some more time beyond April 1, 2010. There is a case for GST to get delayed. There are many issues which have to be solved, many complications which are also there, said Madhya Pradesh finance minister Raghavji after the meeting.

Pointing out that over 10 states have raised concerns over GST, he said, there is no unanimity on a number of issues like GST rates and purchase tax. There should not be any hurry in implementing GST. All states should be taken into consultation, he said.

After the overall structure is approved on November 10, discussions on tax rates will begin. It will take at least two to three months for the rates to crystallise after which well need time for legislative amendments. So even if GST deadline is not postponed to 2011-12, it will be rolled out only a few months after April 1, 2010, an official said.

Stimulus review after Q2, Q3

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said the government is preparing an exit strategy from the fiscal stimulus measures announced last year. So far we are concerned, I think I shall have to watch situation for the (economic) progress in the second quarter and third quarter. Perhaps, I may be in a position, I am not asserting that position, he said at an event. The minister also said that economic growth in India was likely to pick up from the October-December quarter of this fiscal and the country can return to 9% growth in the next two years, but not without reforms. Mukherjee was also candid about why UPA-II has been going slow on reforms in its five months. We dont have the required majority in the two Houses (of Parliament) to clear the bills... a broad political consensus is needed, he said. Speaking at the same venue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, We need to push forward the reforms process, he said replying to a question on stalled reforms in labour, insurance and the financial sector.