Asking the state finance ministers to resolve the pending issues expeditiously, the Centre on Thursday said introducing Goods and Services Tax was critical for economic reforms.

“We also need to focus on the introduction of GST from April 1, 2010. This is a critical part of our economic reforms,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said while addressing a conference of state finance ministers.

Requesting the chief ministers and state finance ministers to resolve the pending issues expeditiously, Mukherjee said, “As in the case of Value-Added Tax, the Centre continues to play the role of a facilitator for GST also.”

The new tax system, GST, is expected to replace most indirect taxes at the central and state levels.

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Mukherjee further said that as the states had agreed to eliminate double benefits under VAT and Central Sales Tax compensation packages, the central government has issued relevant circulars.

The Centre had earlier agreed to compensate the states for loss of revenue following the implementation of VAT and gradual reduction of CST rate.

Calling upon the states to focus on aam aadmi, Mukherjee said: “We have to ensure that the growth process is not only accelerated but also (made) inclusive . . . We need to give full attention to sectors like infrastructure, agriculture, employment generation, etc.”

Raising concern over deterioration of the Centre’s fiscal deficit which soared to 6.2 per cent of GDP in 2008-09, Mukherjee said, “High levels of fiscal deficit are not sustainable in the medium to long term, both for the states and the centre.”

Making a case for brining back the economy on higher growth trajectory without fiscal profligacy, he said, “We have to resume the process of fiscal consolidation at the earliest.”

Referring to the 6.7 per cent growth rate during 2008-09, the minister said, India “is the second-fastest growing economy in the world”.

Moreover, he added, the recent performance of the core sector industries, including crude oil, coal, cement and steel, during April 2009 “gives us further confidence of bringing back the economy on growth path.”

Recalling the social sector initiatives taken by the central government to make the growth more inclusive, Mukherjee said the Cabinet secretary would be holding periodic video conferences with the chief secretaries to monitor the progress of the schemes.

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Tags : CST (80) finance minister (509) goods and services tax (3418) pranab mukherjee (206) Vat (176)

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