Sunday, 11 September 2016

Subramanian Swamy rightly said replace private bank's shares in GSTN with PSBs

GST bill became law previous week after president signed it post ratification by the majority of states. GST brings most of the indirect taxes under one roof. As always, the banks will be playing a major role in collecting the taxes and providing the data of collected taxes to the concerned departments. This needs a huge infrastructure to maintain, process, analyse and to connect the government department with the banks network.

Goods and Services Tax Network, (GSTN) is a Section 25 (not for profit), non-Government, private limited company. It was incorporated during the previous UPA regime to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State Governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). We can see the first two parties, state and central governments in the share holdings of GSTN. The important stake holders- Public Sector Banks which collects the taxes for the government are not in the scene. The government of India holds 24.5 per cent stake in GSTN while states together hold another 24.5 per cent. Balance 51% equity is with non-Government financial institutions like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, HDFC Ltd, LIC Housing Finance and NSE SIC.

GSTN has applied for loan of Rs 550 crores from IDFC. The central government is standing as guarantor for this loan though it is not a majority share holder. This is questioned by Mr Subramanian Swamy- why the majority stake holders are not the guarantors for this loan? In a way he right, but the government's interest in faster implementation of GST is not questionable. His comments on shareholding of GSTN makes the issue interesting.
Subramanian Swamy
As Mr Swamy's says partnering with private institutions to set up an institutions like GSTN to handle highly sensetive data is the matter of worry. I am not saying ICICI, HDFC or LICHF are unreliable, but when someone inside the house are capable of doing some job, calling an outsider to do the same job makes no sense. Firstly, public sector financial institutions holds the majority of share in banking industry and they are capable of partnering with government for implementation of such a high aimed mission like GST even during the period of high bad debts. Secondly, it is not ICICI or HDFC would be collecting the majority of the taxes, but it is definitely SBI, a public sector bank will be the indispensable tax collector for the government even in future. Third reason is by making public sector banks to hold stakes in GSTN, goverment would have had better control over it. Mandatory audit by CAG is always better than an offer to CAG audit. Mr Swamy's proposal to replace GSTN share holding of  private banks with public sector banks makes some sense because tax data is sensitive and also confidential. 

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