GST council meet poses the first challenge before the new Finance Minister of Kerala

Big challenge awaits the State’s new Finance Minister as the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has convened the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Council on May 28 after a gap of seven months.

The new Finance Minister of the next CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front will have only a week to do the homework and get a grasp of the complex GST issues, if the Council of Ministers’ swearing-in takes place as planned on May 20.

In the online meeting to be chaired by Ms. Sitharaman from Delhi and attended by top Finance Ministry officials, the Minister succeeding T.M. Thomas Isaac will have a tough task to project the State’s demands and obtain more GST rate cuts for COVID-19 supplies.

As the key agenda of the 43rd GST Council meeting is the GST rates on various medical devices, essential drugs and other COVID-19-related issues, the convention is seen as critical for the State battling the second wave of the pandemic.

Having implemented the Pay Commission report for government employees, teachers and retirees in April, the financial situation of the State is deemed not that healthy. Mobilising funds for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine directly from manufacturers is also a challenge before the new Minister.

Although it was stated in the last budget presented by Dr. Isaac that COVID-19 vaccine would be made available free of cost, no budget allocation was made in the budget head for medicines.

Rate cuts sought

The upcoming meeting is being convened even as several States are seeking GST rate cuts on essential COVID supplies. The Centre has already exempted integrated GST on imported items such as oxygen concentrators, ventilators and life-saving drugs that come through the donation route.

Kerala led the other nine States that rejected the two options for GST compensation mooted by the Union Government during the 42nd GST Council meet. Dr. Isaac was on the forefront in leading the States to push the Centre towards taking loans for the repayment of the GST compensation.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 10:59:24 PM |

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