Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cabinet clears GST amendments; States to get compensation for five years

Cabinet clears GST amendments; States to get compensation for five years

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman PTI
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman PTI

Nod also for Consumer Protection Bill and National Investment & Infrastructure Fund

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved changes suggested by a Rajya Sabha Select Committee to the Goods & Services Tax Constitution Amendment Bill, including compensating the States for five years for loss of revenue.

With this approval, the Government is all set to bring a revised Constitution Amendment Bill before the Rajya Sabha. The GST, to be rolled out from April 1, 2016, will replace all indirect taxes, including excise and sales tax, on all products, except alcohol. It has already been passed by the Lok Sabha but has been pending in the Upper House.

Besides seeking a commitment to compensate States for five years, the Rajya Sabha Select Panel, headed by the BJP's Bhupender Yadav, had suggested that the levy of 1 per cent additional tax by States should be on "all forms of supply made for a consideration".

Infra Fund

In another major decision, the Cabinet meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its nod for the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. This will boost capital spending in the infrastructure sector. This proposal was first mooted in the Budget this year by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The Fund will have an initial corpus of ₹20,000 crore. It will operate like a company and the government will appoint a board of directors to run its daily operations.

The fund will partly receive budgetary support and the rest will be accumulated via dividends paid by cash-rich public sector companies. The Government will primarily target long-term sovereign wealth funds and pension funds to invest in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, an official said.

Consumer Protection

The Cabinet also approved a new Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, that seeks to replace the existing law and proposes setting up a regulatory authority to curb unfair trade practices. The Bill is likely to be tabled during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament.

The new Bill, which will repeal the 29-year-old Consumer Protection Act, seeks to create a Consumer Protection Authority along the lines of those in the US and European countries to fast-track redress of consumer grievances.

(This article was published on July 29, 2015)

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