GST deadline remains a challenge, says Sinha

The government is working overtime to meet the stiff April 2017 deadline for rolling out the Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime and it remains a “challenge,” Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha said.

Terming the GST as one of the biggest initiatives for creating the right environment to do business in India, the government’s most senior bureaucrat said that the Centre has managed to turn around most of the core infrastructure sectors from a state of distress two years ago and is working on a ‘silent revolution’ in governance.

“The government has been working overtime recently and have taken some path breaking steps in making governance efficient, transparent, responsive, participatory and accountable,”he said. “In fact, I can even say a silent revolution is under way as we move towards a completely digital architecture towards governance in all fields.”

“A number of steps have been taken to improve the ease of doing business… GST is going to be a game-changer for industry, but it’s going to be a challenge. The government has given itself an April 2017 implementation target. I can tell you that we are working overtime to meet that,” Mr. Sinha said, addressing a conclave of state chief secretaries hosted by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Teething troubles

While conceding that there are teething troubles in some areas and it will take some time to see the impact of all the Centre’s reform initiatives on the ground, the cabinet secretary said states need to take efforts to take the impact of these reforms to the next level.

Mr Sinha cautioned against reading too much into the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, where India moved up twelve ranks last year.

“I must state that the World Bank ranking is only based on efforts made in New Delhi and Mumbai. But we have to take our efforts to make it easier to do business, to every city and every nook and corner of the country. That should be our endeavour,” he said, urging states to continue to compete with each other on improving the business environment.

Green shoots

The government is thinking of various measures to promote cargo transport on waterways, Mr. Sinha said, adding that cargo movement has already begun on the national waterway from Varanasi to Howrah and is proving to be more cost-efficient that road and rail.

The cabinet secretary said that the road sector that was ‘quite stuck’ about two years ago, is now back on track with new highway projects beginning to attract bidding interest.

Similarly, addition of new railway lines and electrification has been expedited and passenger traffic is growing at over 20 per cent in the civil aviation sector, giving the Railways a ‘stiff competition,’ he said.

Power projects that were stranded for want of gas or coal two years ago, are now up and running and fuel availability is no longer a problem, Mr Sinha said, with the country running a coal surplus. He also expressed confidence of meeting the 1.75 lakh MW target for renewable energy by 2022, of which one lakh MW is expected to be solar power.

Solar tariff

“Solar tariff has come down considerably and is today competing with coal. When the 1.75 lakh MW target was fixed, everybody thought it will be very difficult to achieve. Today, as things stands, we are on track to meeting that,” Mr. Sinha said.

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