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GST Council fails to end deadlock on compensation to states

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting on Monday failed to arrive at a consensus between Opposition-ruled states and the Centre on a contentious issue of borrowings to meet shortfalls in cess collections.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Centre can certainly address the cess issue by borrowing under option 1- Rs.1.1 lakh crore through a special window facilitated by RBI and Ministry. The Centre is ready to help the States who have decided to borrow to bridge the cess shortfall, the Minister said, while briefing the media late on Monday. 

Sitharaman further stated that if borrowing would be done by the Centre it will result in a surge of G-sec yields, and borrowing costs for states and the private sector. The borrowing falls under Article 293 of the constitution and it is the state’s right to decide what they want to do, she added.

GST Council meeting

This was the third meeting in a row that discussed compensation shortfall without a decision. However, 21 states have agreed to take the resolution while the other opposition ruled states termed the process as illegal.

Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac objected to the announcement of 21 states that will be allowed to choose Option 1 and termed it “illegal”. He tweeted that the Option 1 involves deferment of compensation payment beyond five years  for which the council decision is crucial as per Attorney General’s opinion. He claimed no such decisions have been made in the council meeting. The announcement in the press conference is a total disregard for democratic norms, he wrote.

Further, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said there was no agreement at the meeting to the demands of 10 opposition states for dispute resolution mechanism and formation of a Group of Ministers on the issue.

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Stressing upon the differences, Sitharaman was reluctant to term the compensation issue as a dispute. She said the absence of unanimity doesn’t mean there will be dispute. The Centre is open to discussion and the states can talk, she added.

Meanwhile, as per the Centre’s proposal, the cess collections will be used to repay the interest and principal amount of the borrowing and the deferred compensation.

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