GST set for red-carpet rollout in Parliament
NEWDELHI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley asked all opposition parties to be a part of the high-profile July 1 midnight launch of the goods and services tax (GST) as the government geared up on Thursday for one of India’s most ambitious reforms.
“I hope every political party will reconsider and revisit its decision,” he said.
Parliament is decked out with festival lights and rehearsals were conducted ahead of the Central Hall function that President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior ministers and bureaucrats will attend.
The GST will replace about 20 central and state taxes such as factory-gate duties, service and local taxes while unifying Asia’s third-largest economy and 1.3 billion people into a single market.
The finance minister thanked state governments for the “collaborative effort” to implement the new system. His cabinet colleague Venkaiah Naidu requested parties to rise above politics for the successful rollout of the single-tax regime.
The appeal follows the decision of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK and Left parties to boycott of the midnight cere- mony, saying the country was “ill-prepared” for its implementation. Former PM Manmohan Singh, who was a special invitee, is likely to skip the event.
First conceptualised in 2000, the GST underwent several changes in 17 years to emerge as a multi-tiered tax structure, which economists believe will undermine the advantages that a uniform indirect tax would have affected.
“Given the multi-tiered rate structure and the enormous paperwork involved, there should have been a six-month preparation time to allay fears of traders,” economist Mohan Guruswamy said.
Foodgrain, cereals and vegetables have been zero-rated, while other rate slabs are 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. A cess will also be added to so-called “sin and luxury products”.