Pranab desires GST rollout together with DTC

New Delhi: With the introduction of proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) all set to miss the timeframe of 1 April 2011, the government today expressed desire to roll it out together with the Direct Tax Code (DTC) from 2012-13, reports PTI.

Addressing a seminar on GST, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, admitted that there are some problems in the way of implementing the new indirect tax system.

He said issues relating to constitution amendments required to roll out the new indirect tax system remain to be sorted out with states.

Mr Mukherjee said the Centre is willing to consider phased roll out of GST and hence suggested three-year time frame to ultimately roll out one GST rate for all goods and services.

“I also desire to simultaneously roll out GST (along with DTC),” the finance minister said at a seminar organised by government auditor Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

DTC refers to Direct Taxes Code, which is slated to replace archaic Income Tax Act, from 1 April 2012.

GST, on the other hand, is expected to replace state-level VAT and excise duty as well as services tax on the Centre's front, besides local taxes, cesses and surcharges.

The finance minister said the revised DTC bill will be tabled in Parliament after standing committee gives its recommendation and hoped that it would be implemented from 1 April 2012, as scheduled.

However, the roll out of GST has already missed the earlier deadline of 1 April 2010, while the government's keenness to implement it from 1 April 2011 is also all set to be missed.

The finance minister admitted some problems relating to constitution amendment bill remains to be thrashed out with states.

The Empowered Committee of state finance ministers has not come out with any consensus view on the Centre’s proposal on constitution amendment bill for roll out of GST.

Some states, mainly BJP-ruled and a few others, oppose the Centre’s proposal to have a GST council which will be empowered to effect changes in the indirect tax system.

The council is proposed to be headed by Union finance minister and all states are suggested to be its members.

The finance minister said in multi-party, multi-ethnic country like India, divergent views are bound to occur and hoped that consensus would be found in Empowered Committee over the issue.

The division was so much, that the last meeting of the committee held earlier this month skipped the issue of constitution amendments altogether.

Constitution amendments are required in GST since the Centre cannot impose tax beyond manufacturing, and states cannot levy service tax under the present scheme of things.


Hike of Rs2 in petrol price likely this week

New Delhi: A hike of about Rs2 per litre in petrol prices is on cards this week following international crude oil prices touching $90 per barrel mark, reports PTI.

“We would have raised petrol price yesterday ... We had the oil ministry consent to hike prices by Rs1.90-Rs1.95 per litre immediately after the winter session of Parliament ended yesterday, but at the last moment we are asked to wait for one or two more days,” an official of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the nation's largest fuel retailer, said.

IOC and other state retailers Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) are losing Rs4.17 per litre on selling petrol as raw material (crude oil) cost has climbed to $90 per barrel.

A similar hike in diesel rates is likely to be considered by an Empowered Group of Ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee on 22nd December.

The basket of crude oil India buys was at $89.34 per barrel yesterday. It has averaged $88.47 per barrel in December as against about $79 a barrel at the time of last hike in petrol price on 9th November.

“International prices are on the rise leading to widening of gap between domestic retail price and their cost of production,” he said, adding the oil firms were pushing for about Rs2.50 per litre hike in prices while the political leadership is willing to concede only Rs0.95-Rs1.05 a litre.

Even though petrol price was freed from the government control in June, state-run retailers informally consult the oil ministry before revising domestic rates.

They had on 9th November raised petrol price by Rs0.32 per litre to Rs52.91 a litre in Delhi even through the desired increase was about Rs1.1 per litre.

Since 26th June, when petrol price was deregulated, IOC, BPCL and HPCL have revised rates only four times even though the crude oil has jumped from $73-$74 per barrel at that time to $90 a barrel currently, the official said.

On diesel, the three firms are losing about Rs5 a litre.

A fuel price hike was planned after the winter session of Parliament ended on 13th December. The last hike in petrol price on 9th November had happened just before the winter session of Parliament began.

If prices are not revised, IOC, BPCL and HPCL are likely to end the fiscal with close to Rs67,000 crore revenue loss on sale of diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene below cost.

The oil retailers lose Rs272.19 on the sale of every 14.2-kg LPG cylinder and Rs17.72 per litre of kerosene.


Search panel recommends UK Sinha for SEBI chairmanship

New Delhi: A government search panel is understood to have recommended UTI Mutual Fund chairman UK Sinha as the next Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) chairman, the post which will fall vacant on 17th February, when incumbent CB Bhave’s term ends, reports PTI.

However, no official confirmation could be obtained.

Mr Sinha, who is also mutual fund industry body AMFI’s chairman, was considered to be a front-runner for the post right from the start.

Prior to joining UTI Mutual Fund, Mr Sinha served as joint secretary, capital markets division, in the finance ministry. He is an IAS, belonging to the Bihar cadre.

Besides Mr Sinha, others in the race included corporate affairs secretary R Bandyopadhyay, Department of Disinvestment additional secretary S Pradhan, Madhya Pradesh principal secretary G P Singhal and two managing directors at SBI, SK Bhattacharya and R Sridharan.

On Monday, the search panel interviewed some of those in the race to head market regulator SEBI.

The search panel had expressed the hope that new chairman would be appointed before the post falls vacant.

“The SEBI chairman post would be vacant on 17 February, 2011. Before that we would have the successor,” finance secretary Ashok Chawla, who is part of the panel, had said.

Out of those selected for the final interview, at least two—public sector lender SBI chairman OP Bhatt and Reserve Bank of India deputy governor KC Chakrabarty—expressed their unwillingness for the position, sources said.

The panel, headed by cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar, includes financial services secretary R Gopalan and Department of Personnel secretary Shantanu Consul.

Mr Bhave took charge as SEBI chairman on 18th February, 2008 for a three-year term.


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