Amid criticism for not changing GST rates for COVID-19 equipment, medicines, and vaccines, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitraman has the choicest of replies. "Is the GST Council heartless?" She asked. On Friday, after the GST Council meeting, the minister announced the decisions, leaving out any changes in tax rates of vaccines and medical supplies.
“What we have under GST today is what we import from the pre-GST era. When we see the pandemic, we all think we need to give with a large heart. On Friday, one of the comments was (about being) heartless. Is the GST Board heartless? I'm part of it today, somebody else was there earlier. Lifesaving drugs were required even before COVID, were they heartless then? ” she said in an interview to Times of India.
Currently, 5% GST is levied on domestically manufactured vaccines, while 12% applies to Covid drugs and oxygen concentrates. While she did not revise these rates, GST was removed for Amphotericin B. On Friday, she announced that amphotericin B, required to treat black fungus, which has been detected in many COVID patients, will be exempted from GST.
Speaking of GST rates on life-saving medicines and equipment that are only required during emergencies, Sitharaman said the WHO protocol was also evolving. She reasoned that there might be A, B, and C drugs today, but tomorrow, B might be removed and a D added. In that case, you would have to exempt D now and remove B from the exemption list. "The council will have to respond to a call on how to make concessions, taking into account the dynamic nature of the situation in mind," said the minister.
Last week, while briefing reporters after the 43rd meeting of the Goods and Services Tax Board, the finance minister said it was easy to rush and say that doing this or that would benefit the common man, but when the technical, fitment and law committees go into detail, one realizes that some decisions can have a collateral impact.
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