This year we’re better prepared to face pandemic: Economic Affairs and Revenue Secretary Tarun Bajaj

The government is expected to meet the revised revenue targets. But are there concerns now with the new wave of surge in Covid cases.

With the new wave of surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, Economic Affairs and Revenue Secretary Tarun Bajaj said India is better prepared to face the pandemic and it will be fought with vaccines and other measures. In an interview with The Indian Express, Bajaj said goods and services tax (GST) collections are showing a rise, indicating resilience of the economy. Excerpts:

The government is expected to meet the revised revenue targets. But are there concerns now with the new wave of surge in Covid cases.

I don’t think as much. This year we were expecting direct taxes to be hit quite a lot but as compared to last year, gross revenue will be lower by only 2-3 per cent, which is a good comeback. And this year we are better prepared to face pandemic and aren’t going to address the challenge through lockdowns, so the economy keeps functioning. It is a matter of worry, I won’t say it’s not, but we’ll fight it out with vaccines and other measures this time.

Services sector may not recover the way it was being anticipated, which will impact the indirect tax side.

I agree to some extent, but this time the pandemic should be handled in a far better way as we are better equipped with upgraded medical infrastructure and vaccines.

So it will not take us that long to do it. In spite of all that you are saying, GST, which is indirect tax on goods and services, is showing a good rise. Basically, that shows resilience of the economy.

The taxability of petroleum products under GST is being talked about. Will the Centre support a formal discussion on it in the GST Council?

Finance Minister has spoken on it. We will work accordingly. For now, there are low hanging fruits in GST, let’s first pluck them.

So the next Council meeting would rather focus on the pending issue of inverted duty structure?

Yes, that’s pending. Let’s see. We will decide when the Council meeting happens.

Banking and MSME sectors are stretched. IBC is on hold which would have exacerbated their already stretched position. How do you see the impact on lending?

Let us see that now the moratorium is over. I think the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is working on a special IBC for the MSME sector. That should take care of the concerns to some extent. Banking sector basically is quite fine, the CRAR is good. I hope we should be able to weather this storm. Plus, the Budget announcements will take care of the sector.

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