Nirmala Sitharaman attributes GST shortfall to COVID-19 impact, says economy facing 'Act of God' situation

Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that of total shortfall of 2.35 lakh crore, Rs 97,000 crore is due to GST shortfall, and rest is due to impact of COVID-19 on the economy

Press Trust of India August 31, 2020 07:13:25 IST
Nirmala Sitharaman attributes GST shortfall to COVID-19 impact, says economy facing 'Act of God' situation

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said the economy has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is an 'Act of God', and it will see a contraction in the current fiscal.

As per the Centre's calculations, states will be facing a shortfall of Rs 2.35 lakh crore in GST revenues in 2020-21.

Briefing reporters after the 41st meeting of the GST Council, Sitharaman said the Centre will pay the states the compensation which strictly arises out of GST implementation.

In the current fiscal, the compensation requirement of states has been estimated at Rs 3 lakh crore, of which Rs 65,000 crore will be funded from the revenues garnered by levy of cess. This leaves a shortfall of Rs 2.35 lakh crore.

The Centre has estimated that of this Rs 2.35 lakh crore, Rs 97,000 crore compensation requirement is due to GST rollout and the remaining is on account of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

"This year we are facing an extraordinary situation that even below 10 percent approximate estimation you are facing an 'Act of God' which might even result in a contraction of the economy...," Sitharaman said.

Nirmala Sitharaman attributes GST shortfall to COVID19 impact says economy facing Act of God situation

Earlier this week, the Reserve Bank had said that the contraction in economic activity was likely to continue in the second quarter of the current fiscal as upticks witnessed in May and June appears to have lost strength following reimposition of lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The government imposed a nationwide lockdown on 25 March to combat the pandemic. The lockdown was partially lifted and then reimposed by certain states to check the spread of the coronavirus infections.

The National Statistical Office is scheduled to release its estimates of GDP for the first quarter of this fiscal on 31 August.

The growth projections for current fiscal by various agencies show a sharp contraction of the Indian economy ranging from (-)3.2 percent to (-)9.5 percent.

India's GDP growth has been slowing even before the outbreak of the pandemic. India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 4.2 percent in 2019-20 was the lowest since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

The Centre also placed before the GST Council two options for borrowing by states to meet the shortfall in GST revenues in the meeting on Thursday.

Pandey said a special window can be provided to the states, in consultation with the RBI, at a reasonable interest rate for borrowing of Rs 97,000 crore.

The amount can be repaid after five years (of GST implementation) ending 2022 from cess collection. The second option before the states is to borrow the entire Rs 2.35 lakh crore shortfall under the special window.

"States have been given seven days' time to think over the proposal," Pandey said.

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