Yesterday, the government circulated certain official amendments to the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014 on GST. The Bill is currently pending in Rajya Sabha. The Bill was introduced and passed in Lok Sabha in May 2015. It was then referred to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha which submitted its report in July 2015. With the Bill listed for passage this week, we explain key provisions in the Bill, and the amendments proposed. What is the GST? Currently, indirect taxes are imposed on goods and services. These include excise duty, sales tax, service tax, octroi, customs duty etc. Some of these taxes are levied by the centre and some by the states. For taxes imposed by states, the tax rates may vary across different states. Also, goods and services are taxed differently. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a value added tax levied across goods and services at the point of consumption. The idea of a GST regime is to subsume most indirect taxes under a single taxation regime. This is expected to help broaden the tax base, increase tax compliance, and reduce economic distortions caused by inter-state variations in taxes. What does the 2014 Bill on GST do? The 2014 Bill amends the Constitution to give concurrent powers to Parliament and state legislatures to levy a Goods and Services tax (GST). This implies that the centre will levy a central GST (CGST), while states will be permitted to levy a state GST (SGST). For goods and services that pass through several states, or imports, the centre will levy another tax, the Integrated GST (IGST). Alcohol for human consumption has been kept out of the purview of GST. Further, GST will be levied on 5 types of petroleum products at a later date, to be decided by the GST Council. The Council is a body comprising of Finance Ministers of the centre and all states (including Delhi and Puducherry). This body will make recommendations in relation to the implementation of GST, including the rates, principles of levy, etc. The Council is also to decide the modalities for resolution of disputes that arise out of its recommendations. States may be given compensation for any revenue losses they may face from the introduction of the GST regime. Such compensation may be provided for a period of up to five years. Further, the centre may levy an additional tax, up to 1%, in the course of interstate trade. The revenues from the levy of this tax will be given to the state from where the good originates. Expert bodies like the Select Committee and the Arvind Subramanian Committee have observed that this provision could lead to cascading of taxes (as tax on tax will be levied).[i] It also distorts the creation of a national market, as a product made in one state and sold in another would be more expensive than one made and sold within the same state. What are the key changes proposed by the 2016 amendments? The amendments propose three key changes to the 2014 Bill. They relate to (i) additional tax up to 1%; (ii) compensation to states; and (iii) dispute resolution by the GST Council.
These amendments will be taken up for discussion with the Bill in Rajya Sabha this week. The Bill requires a special majority for its passage as it is a Constitution Amendment Bill (that is at least 50% majority of the total membership in the House, and 2/3rds majority of all members present and voting). If the Bill is passed with amendments, it will have to be sent back to Lok Sabha for consideration and passage. After its passage in Parliament, at least 50% state legislatures will have to pass resolutions to ratify the Bill. Once the constitutional framework is in place, the centre will have to pass simple laws to levy CGST and IGST. Similarly, all states will have to pass a simple law on SGST. These laws will specify the rates of the GST to be levied, the goods and services that will be included, the threshold of the turnover of businesses to be included, etc. Note that the Arvind Subramanian Committee, set up by the Finance Ministry, recommended the rates of GST that may be levied. The table below details the bands of rates proposed.
|Table 1: Rates of GST recommended by Expert Committee headed by Arvind Subramanian|
|Type of rate||Rate||Details|
|Revenue Neutral Rate||15%||Single rate which maintains revenue at current levels.|
|Standard Rate||17-18%||Too be applied to most goods and services|
|Lower rates||12%||To be applied to certain goods consumed by the poor|
|Demerit rate||40%||To be applied on luxury cars, aerated beverages, paan masala, and tobacco|
|Source: Arvind Subramanian Committee Report (2015)|
Several other measures related to the back end infrastructure for registration and reporting of GST, administrative officials related to GST, etc. will also have to be put in place, before GST can be rolled out. [For further details on the full list of amendments, please see here. For other details on the GST Bill, please see here.]
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has decided to conduct an off-cycle meeting today to discuss the failure to meet the inflation target under Section 45ZN of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. As per the Reserve Bank of India Act (RBI), 1934, MPC is required to meet at least four times each year, to discuss the macroeconomic issues in the country, and take policy decisions to address those. This is the second time MPC has conducted an off-cycle meeting in 2022-23. The meeting is scheduled in light of inflation being consistently high for nine consecutive months.
In this blog, we discuss what the inflation targeting framework is, examine retail and wholesale prices, and the divergence between them.
What is the inflation targeting framework, and what happens if inflation is persistently high?
In 2016, Parliament amended the RBI Act, 1934 to change the monetary policy, and introduce an inflation targeting framework. This framework prioritises price stability to achieve sustainable GDP growth. Price stability allows investors to confidently invest their money for productive activities, without worrying about it losing value. Price stability also maintains the purchasing power of consumers, i.e., the ability to purchase a good (or service) with a given amount of money.
As per the new framework, the central government, in consultation with RBI sets: (i) an inflation target, and (ii) an upper and lower tolerance level for retail inflation. The target has been set at 4%, with an upper tolerance limit of 6% and a lower tolerance limit of 2%. The upper and lower limits indicate that although it is desirable for inflation to be close to 4%, deviation between these limits is acceptable. The target and bands are revised every five years. In March 2021, the existing targets were carried forward.
Retail inflation has been above 6% for the past nine months, and it has been above 4% from October 2019 onwards (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Consumer price index (year-on-year; in percentage)
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.
If inflation is above or below the prescribed limits for three quarters, RBI must submit a report to the central government explaining why prices have been rising (or falling) persistently, what will be done to correct that, and an estimate as to when the target will be achieved.
The MPC uses tools such as interest rates to control the level of inflation in the economy. One such rate is the policy repo rate, which is the rate at which RBI lends money to banks. An increase in the policy repo rate makes borrowing money more costly, and hence is expected to control inflation by reducing the money supply. MPC increased this rate from 4% in April 2022 to 4.4% in May 2022, to 4.9% in June 2022, to 5.4% in August 2022, and to 5.9% in September 2022.
Breaking down the Consumer Price Index and the Wholesale Price Index
Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the general prices of goods and services such as food, clothing, and fuel over time. Retail inflation is calculated as the change in the CPI over a period of time. Goods and services such as petrol, food products, health, and education are considered for its calculation, which are assigned different weights (See Table 1). Between February 2022 and August 2022, the average annual inflation was 6.9%. The rise in prices of subcomponents of the CPI during this period is indicated in Table 2.
Table 1: Assigned weights for the calculation of CPI
Sources: MOSPI; PRS.
Table 2: Average inflation of some CPI components
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, RBI; PRS.
CPI is not the only index that measures inflation in an economy. The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) measures the wholesale prices of goods. A change in wholesale prices reflects wholesale inflation. Table 3 indicates the weights assigned to goods for calculating the WPI. Manufactured goods include metals, chemicals, food products, and textiles.
Primary articles (23%) include food articles, and crude petroleum and natural gas. Fuel and power (12%) include mineral oils, electricity, and coal. WPI has remained above 10% from April 2021 onwards. It reached an all-time high of 17% in May 2022. This was driven by the inflation in metals, kerosene and petroleum coke, fruits and vegetables, and palm oil.
Table 3:Assigned weights for the
Sources: Ministry of Commerce and Industry; PRS.
Why has WPI inflation been consistently above CPI inflation?
Movements in the WPI have an impact on the CPI. For almost a year and half, CPI inflation has remained below WPI inflation. However, as per the design of the indices, it is expected that CPI would remain above WPI, and that any increase in WPI would reflect in the CPI after a time lag. This is because retail prices include taxes (as a percentage of price), while wholesale prices do not. Additionally, some of the goods in WPI act as inputs in the goods considered in CPI. An increase in input prices would lead to higher retail prices after a time lag.
We discuss possible reasons for why CPI has remained below WPI for a year and a half.
Figure 2: Consumer Price Index and Wholesale Price Index
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.
Composition of indices
As indicated in Table 2 and 3, the composition of the two indices varies. For instance, prices of manufacture of basic metals, chemicals, and machinery grew at an average rate of 13% between February 2021 and September 2022. They contribute 7% to the WPI. These are input goods for producing final goods and services such as automobiles, which are included in the CPI. The rise in prices of transport vehicles, communication devices, fuel for transport, and housing (CPI components) rose by 6% during this period.
The Ministry of Finance has observed that wholesale prices did not feed into retail prices (from March 2021 onwards) as wholesalers absorbed the rising input costs and did not pass them on to retailers. In August 2022, it noted that as retail prices are rising now, the pass-through may occur.