GST rate likely to be over 12%, says finance ministry

The finance ministry on Thursday said that the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate is likely to be higher than 12%, which was suggested by the task force set up by the 13th Finance Commission, reports PTI.

The Finance Commission (task force) had recommended an overall GST rate of 12% "but it is likely to be higher than that", revenue secretary Sunil Mitra said at a CII seminar in New Delhi.
However, he clarified that he was not talking about the Central GST but the combined tax at the Union and state governments' level.

The task force had recommended 5% GST rate at the Central level and 7% at the state level.

GST was earlier scheduled to be implemented from 1 April 2010, but now the Central GST will replace most of the indirect taxes at Central and state levels like service tax, excise duty, value added tax (VAT), and local levies.

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    Eveready hikes battery prices by up to 10%

    Battery maker Eveready Industries Ltd on Friday said that it is raising prices of its products by up to 10% due to surging input costs, reports PTI.

    The company said that rising zinc cost, a key raw material for manufacturing batteries, coupled with the excise duty hike in Budget 2010 are the main factors for increasing battery prices.

    "Over the past four-five months, there has been a continuous upward climb in zinc prices, which has adversely impacted the manufacturing cost of carbon zinc batteries," Eveready Industries vice chairman and managing director Deepal Khaitan said in a statement.

    Besides, the product segment had to bear 2% hike in excise duty to 10% from 8% made in the Union Budget 2010, the company said.

    "These (factors) have left us with very little option but to pass on a part of the increase in the costs to the market. We are also increasing the maximum retail price (MRP) of all types of batteries by 5% to 10% with immediate effect," he said.

    Eveready sells around 1.2 billion batteries annually. Besides dry cell batteries, the company offers household items like torches, rechargeable batteries, CFL lamps, packet tea and mosquito repellents.

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    Food inflation to ease, WPI unlikely to touch double-digits: Montek

    The Planning Commission of India on Friday said that high inflation, primarily driven by rising food prices, is likely to ease in the next few months on the back of an expected good rabi crop, reports PTI.

    "I expect food price inflation to come down in the next couple of months on the back of an (expected) good rabi crop," Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said at a conference.

    Downplaying fears of wholesale price index (WPI) inflation touching double-digits, the Planning Commission official said, "I don't think this will happen. I expect WPI inflation to gradually come down."

    With economic growth momentum returning, the Planning Commission expects a GDP growth of 8.5% for FY11 and a 9% growth in the subsequent fiscal, he said.

    "I think the economy is doing very well. We have weathered an extraordinary crisis. Now we are well set to get back to 8.5% (GDP growth) in 2010-11 and hope to see a 9% growth after that," Mr Ahluwalia said.

    "We are going to get back to the path of fiscal prudence," he said, adding that with the economy improving, he expected institutional investments to continue. “I think the fiscal deficit has been brought down—economic growth momentum has returned," Mr Ahluwalia said. "We are counting on this momentum continuing in the next two-years. That is what we predicted and that is what we were expecting."

    According to him, the economy has shown very good resilience. The government was concerned about the high food prices which he attributed mainly to the drought conditions of last year.
    "I think it (high food prices) is mainly because of the drought conditions last year. Excessive speculation and exaggerated reports have also contributed (to the price rise)," Mr Ahluwalia said. Now, however, with rabi crops coming in, he expected food price inflation to decline in the next couple of months.

    On government borrowings and whether it would impact private demand, Mr Ahluwalia said, "There is no need for us to worry about government borrowings next fiscal," he said. Total borrowing is pegged at Rs4.57 lakh crore in the next fiscal.

    Asked about the poor response which state-run units’ issues have received recently, Mr Ahluwalia said that the relatively poor response did not indicate that the government should slow down its disinvestment plan.

    State governments should proactively take steps to improve basic infrastructure like health and education, Mr Ahluwalia said.


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