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West Bengal Finance Minister and chairman of Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on Goods and Services Tax (GST) Amit Mitra on Wednesday said that the rate of tax which would be levied was not a part of the Constitutional Amendment bill. “The idea is to have a tax that does not result in inflationary pressures on common people,” Mitra said at the Ficci Banking Conclave here.
He said that the rate should be “such that it is neither too low nor too high”, and added that it would not be discussed at the debate on the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014. The GST rate would be fixed two or three months after the amendment was passed by Parliament, he said.
Mitra said GST was primarily focused on small and medium enterprises, which would not have to deal with multiple tax systems if it was introduced. He also said banks in the state needed to open branches in rural areas.
“Setting up of branches incurs a lot of expenditure, so we can offer spaces of around 300-500 feet in gram panchayat buildings to start operations,” Mitra said. He said that there were about 3,500 bank branches in the state, which was not enough. Mitra’s statement follows state Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee’s remark that banks were reluctant to offer services in rural areas.
“Currently there are 770 gram panchayats in Bengal, with an average population of 5,000 each, where there is no bank in a five km radius,” he said, adding that loans had to be offered to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to facilitate their growth. “Gatidhara (the state’s scheme of lending to people who want to purchase private vehicles) had been a little slow in the first three months, but gathered momentum,” he said.
He also urged Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairperson, SBI, to consider providing loans to Kanyashree recipients. “I had asked if her bank could provide loans to Kanyashree recipients so they could start small-scale businesses. The same proposal will be made to other banks at the next state level bankers’ committee meeting,” he said.