SHILLONG, July 17: Often termed as the game changer in the world of tax reforms, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) may have long term benefits as claimed, but the immediate aftermath of it in Meghalaya is chaotic and unruly.
GST, the long-awaited reform with the aim of transforming the nation of 1.2 billion people and its $2 trillion economy into a single market, was launched on June 30 midnight.
Since its launch the tax reform is creating more confusion rather than simplifying and streamlining the entire process in the state.
From stores of refusals to sell luxury items to the customers hoping to sell the products at a higher rate when the GST price kicks in; to shop keepers selling essential commodities at the same old price with no reduction applied as it should be, the citizens are faced with all types of hurdles.
When asked about the prevailing situation post GST, Chief Minister, Dr. Mukul Sangma said, “We including other political parties in the Centre have expressed our concern about the manner in which it should be or is being rolled out precisely because we understood that there would be many avoidable hiccups.”
“Avoidable hiccups could have been avoided but this was not done because there was complete insensitivity and an adamant attitude of the union government and that is the reason you are seeing the fall out,” Dr. Sangma added.
The Chief Minister further said, “We have expressed this concern as to how an exercise of this magnitude from one taxation to another which is a completely an exercise that requires the involvement of not just the government agencies but all the stakeholders as to how it should be rolled out.”
“Avoidable hiccups could have been avoided, avoidable hurdles could have been dismantled even before we rolled out the new tax regime,” the Chief Minister added.
It may be mentioned that the State Taxation Minister, Zenith Sangma was not available for comment on the issue despite several attempts made for days.
Meanwhile, the president of the Meghalaya Chamber of Commerce, RL Sethia observed that there is a lot of confusion post GST which is troublesome and affecting trade and commerce in the state.
“Lack of awareness campaigns from the government is also one of the main reasons for the mix up. People don’t really understand GST and the sale tax officers are also no exception,” Sethi added.
He however said that these are momentary hiccups which will fade as and when the idea of GST seeps in and is understood by all and the long term benefits are good.
When asked about the no change in price of the essential commodities, Sethia informed that the price of essential commodities have not come down.
“Sugar was VAT free earlier but now with GST VAT of RS 5 has been levied. It is the same with rice and other branded food grains and in fact it has increased,” Sethi added.
On the affects of GST on the trading community, Sethi said that the most affected are the rural people who have not yet understood GST and also the cloth traders.
“It is difficult to do business at the juncture with half of the time spent in making our partners understand especially the rural folks about GST,” Sethi said adding that there was no tax on clothes earlier but it has been levied and the cloth merchants are dumbfound, confused and afraid.
He however hoped that things would simplify in days to come and informed that considering the mix-up the Indian Chamber of Trade and Commerce is contemplating to organise awareness campaigns on GST in the state.