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No GST exemption to help businesses fight Covid-19 disruptions

The issue for GST exemption has surfaced particularly with respect to items needed in the fight against the pandemic: Ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPE), Covid-19 test kits, sanitisers, etc.

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New Delhi, May 23 : The Finance Ministry has ruled out GST waiver or deference to businesses as part of the economic relief package to help them cope with the situation arising in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant nationwide lockdown.

In discussions within the ministry, it has been said that Goods and Sales Tax exemption or deferral is not required as it would not given any benefit to industry but seriously impact the revenues of both the states and the Centre.

With the Centre announcing a mega relief package of Rs 20 lakh crore as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, there have been oft-repeated demands for the GST wavier, this time for a period of six months. The argument given is that GST exemption would lead to revival of demand due to reduction in prices and hence benefit in the fight against Covid-19.

The government has provided exemption and moratorium on payment of various taxes and debt as part of the package.

Contrary to what is being suggested, government sources said on the condition of anonymity that GST exemption would seriously jeopardise the industry’s interests and not result in any significant gains to consumers.

Therefore, there is no point to exempt businesses from this tax that would lead to blocked input tax credit (ITC), resulting in increase in manufacturing cost and a higher price for consumers.

“Hopefully, the Centre is not considering the demand. Exemption of GST on the final product is never a good idea. It distorts the value chain. It does not necessary lead to reduction in prices. In fact, it adversely impacts domestic industry,” Najib Shah, former chairman, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), told IANS.

The issue for GST exemption has surfaced particularly with respect to items needed in the fight against the pandemic: Ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPE), Covid-19 test kits, sanitisers, etc.

At present, the liability of the inputs “be it 5% or 12% or 18%” is more than offset when discharging the 5% or 12% GST liability on PPE or ventilator, the entire liability being ‘paid’ by the credit of taxes accumulated at the earlier stages of manufacture.

If GST is exempted, this credit facility will be unavailable, leading to higher final price of the equipment.

In the past also, when the GST exemption on sanitary napkin was allowed, it led to similar hardship for domestic manufacturers of sanitary napkins. Later, domestic industry complained of adversity.

It is also equally important to keep in mind that GST waiver provides much larger incentive for imports because imports do not come with any baggage of input side taxes compared with the domestic supply.

GST provides a level playing field to domestic industry vis-a-vis the imports.

Illustratively, waiver of tax on a mobile would mean that domestically produced mobile phone has suffered the taxes on its inputs, while the imported mobile phone does not. Hence, imported mobile would be cheaper, making the domestic one non-competitive.

“Any decision to review the GST rates cannot be taken unilaterally by the central government. It is the recommendation of the GST Council that prevails in respect of GST rates. With the situation of dire economic crises and states requiring resources more than ever to deal with the post Covid-19 pandemic situation, the Council may not have comfort of this option. It is an option that causes hardship to the businesses and the state finances, while providing virtually no relief to customer in the first place.”

States GST revenue may see steep fall of 80-90 per cent in April, the first full month of lockdown that saw business and economic activity coming to a standstill.

Business

Airtel deploys Nokia’s open Cloud-based VoLTE network

According to Nokia, the network supports over 110 million customers, making it the largest cloud-based VoLTE network in India and the largest Nokia-run VoLTE in the world.

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New Delhi, July 6 : Nokia on Monday announced that its CloudBand-based software products have started powering Bharti Airtels Voice over LTE (VoLTE) network in India.

Finnish telecom gear maker firm Nokia in April bagged a deal worth more than Rs 7,500 crore from Bharti Airtel to deploy 5G ready network across the country.

According to Nokia, the network supports over 110 million customers, making it the largest cloud-based VoLTE network in India and the largest Nokia-run VoLTE in the world.

“Nokia”s carrier-grade cloud software solutions drive simplicity and flexibility and will further strengthen Airtel”s solid 5G network foundation and transition to innovative digital solutions that are customer and experience centric,” said Bhaskar Gorti, President of Nokia Software and Nokia Chief Digital Officer.

The cloud-based VoLTE deployment allows Airtel to provide its mobile customers faster and more reliable, cost-efficient call connectivity.

Nokia, which is the largest 4G vendor in Airtel network, will help lay the foundation for providing 5G connectivity in the future by deploying 300,000 radio units across several spectrum bands in all 22 telecom service areas expected to be completed by 2022.

Nokia”s VoLTE solution enables Airtel to free up spectrum by ramping down its 3G network, allowing the operator to utilize the freed up spectrum to deploy 4G/LTE services for better speed and capacity.

“We are delighted to deepen our strategic partnership with Nokia to build a future ready and agile network. The country”s largest open cloud based VoLTE network is a major milestone in Airtel”s journey,” added Randeep Sekhon, CTO of Bharti Airtel.

India currently is the second-largest telecom market in the world and is expected to reach 920 million unique mobile customers by 2025, which will also include 88 million 5G connections according to the GSMA.

The country is experiencing a massive increase in demand for data services with traffic increasing by 47 per cent in 2019 alone, according to Nokia”s MBiT Index 2020.

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SEBI norms tweak boost chances of CG Power resolution

There are complaints pending in SEBI against KKR for violation of the Takeover Code and SEBI is investigating the violation.

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New Delhi, July 6 : The relaxation by SEBI in pricing methodology for listed companies having stressed assets has brightened the prospects of early resolution of CG Power.

SEBI has decided to relax the pricing methodology for preferential issues by listed companies having stressed assets and exempt allottees of preferential issues from open offer obligations in such cases.

CG Power, a large engineering company having its operations worldwide and having a consolidated turnover of more than Rs 6,200 crore and an EBIDITA of Rs 500 crore in 2018 and which is asset rich ran into financial problems amidst a controversy between erstwhile promoter Gautam Thapar and its lenders KKR and L&T Finance who had lent money against pledge of the promoter”s holding.

Gautam Thapar was removed on an allegation that funds were diverted in a convoluted manner to lenders of other group companies.

In view of the controversy, bankers refused to support requests for working capital. Due to shortage of working capital, the profitability was severally affected in spite of pending profitable orders.

Lead banker SBI has mandated SBI Capital Markets to carry out a resolution process and it is expected that invitations for EOI will be announced very soon.

Lenders have shown willingness to restructure the debt and monetise valuable non-core assets like Crompton House at Worli and valuable land at Kanjurmarg. As part of the restructuring exercise, CG Power sold its holding in CG Power Ireland.

It is learnt from reliable sources that many industrial groups like Sunil Mittal of Bharati Telecom, Muruggapa group, Aeon Capital and many PE funds are actively considering a buyout. Sunil Mittal through Bharati SBM Holding had shown interest and bought 8.30 per cent equity from the market between March 2019 and May, 2019.

There are complaints pending in SEBI against KKR for violation of the Takeover Code and SEBI is investigating the violation.

SEBI has stated this in its order dated March 11, 2020 that there has been a specific allegation against KKR, a private equity firm, which holds 8.10 per cent of the shares in the Company, through KKR India Financial Services Private Limited, with respect to market manipulation, insider trading and change in control of the company.

They also note that certain allegations have been made against Narayan Seshadri, an Independent Director on the board, with respect to his firm Tranzmute”s partnership with KKR. SEBI is independently looking into these complaints. In case the investigation finds any violation it can result in an open offer around at Rs 45.

–IANS

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Veggies on the rise, prices soar by up to 200%

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New Delhi, July 5 : The prices of food items, including vegetables, have started to skyrocket even as the coronavirus crisis shows no sign of abating. The prices of vegetables, in particular, have increased quite significantly with retail prices of almost all kinds rising from 25 per cent to 200 per cent.

The most significant rise has been registered in the price of tomato. Vegetable traders say prices have risen due to crop failure during the rainy season.

Azadpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) chairman Adil Ahmad Khan told IANS that the prices of most green vegetables have registered an increase in the past one month, due to reduced arrivals during the rainy season. According to Khan, another reason for rise in prices of vegetables is due to increased diesel price. “Vegetable traders point out that the cost of transportation of vegetables has increased due to diesel being expensive,” he said.

However, Greater Noida retailer Munendra also sells vegetables at a higher price though he does not have to bear the cost of transportation to bring vegetables from his farms to shops. Munendra has cultivated brinjal, gourd, bitter gourd, lady”s finger, cucumber etc on his farm which is just a kilometer away from his shop. Munendra said the crops usually perish in the rainy season, which also reduces the yield. This is why the prices of vegetables are increasing, he said.

Vijay Ahuja, an agent at Okhla Mandi, said that in the rainy season, the arrival of vegetables reduces every year, due to which the prices keep rising.

Now, compare vegetable prices in the month of June and July.

Prices in the month of June (Rs per kg):

  • Potatoes – 20-25
  • Cabbage – 30-40
  • Tomatoes – 20-30
  • Onion – 20-25
  • Gourd – 20
  • Cucumber – 20
  • Pumpkin – 10-15
  • Brinjal – 20
  • Capsicum – 60
  • Prices in the month of July (Rs per kg)
  • Potatoes – 30-35
  • Cabbage – 60-80
  • Tomatoes – 60-80
  • Onion – 25-30
  • Gourd – 30
  • Cucumber – 50
  • Pumpkin – 20-30
  • Brinjal – 40
  • Capsicum – 80
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