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PM indicates more relief measures at next week’s GST Council meet

NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi on Saturday indicated that the GST Council in its meeting next week will carry out more changes in tax measures to "strengthen" businesses and the economy, but seemed to be wary of the possibility of some state playing spoilsport.
"If no state puts any obstacles then in the GST Council meeting on November 9 and 10, I am confident that steps necessary to provide a new energy to the country's businesses and economy will be taken," Modi said at a function to celebrate the country's sharp jump in the World Bank's 'ease of doing business' rankings.
The PM did not spell out what decisions the GST Council might take. However, the hint of major changes comes against the backdrop of unrest among small and medium businesses over GST and the recognition that assuaging some of the concerns will be crucial for BJP in the Gujarat polls.
In its previous meetings, the Council provided a string of relief for businesses to help them cope better with the new tax regime. A panel of state finance ministers have already dropped loud hints about pegging the rates lower. In fact, the PM stressed that issues raised by small and medium enterprises have been positively accepted by the Council in the past.
The GST Council, headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley, will meet in Guwahati on November 9 and 10 against expectations that more rate relief may be on its way.
TOI had reported earlier that the Council may reduce the number of products in the highest slab, after state finance ministers pointed out that several common-use products face a 28% levy.
At least two state finance ministers told TOI that items such as bath fittings, cement, steel products used as rods for construction are in the top bracket.
"The idea was to classify goods and services into merit and non-merit goods with the non-merit goods in the top bracket," a state finance minister, who has usually sided with the Centre on most issues, had told TOI.
Officials in the indirect tax wing of the finance ministry also agree that there are too many items in the top slab. Jaitley too has indicated that in the medium term the aim is to move to fewer slabs.