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West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra has said with the hurried launch of the GST without putting proper infrastructure in place, the system has become more "primitive" than the VAT regime with "manual" processing of refund applications. Due to lack of interface in place between the Goods and Services Tax network with the customs electronic date interchange (EDI) and the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), the Centre is using ledger for manual records for refunds, Mitra said. Pointing out that that this was one reason why he had asked the Centre to push back the date of introduction of the new tax regime, he hoped that the problem is temporary. Even in the state VAT system, there was no manual intervention in the entire process of filing of returns, Mitra said while addressing the Federation of Indian Export Organisation organised award ceremony here last evening. The minister said owing to the new system, exporters were unable to get their refunds and at least 10-15 per cent of their working capital was remaining locked. According to the report 'Impact of GST on Exports' by the Parliamentary Committee headed by Naresh Gujral, the refund of Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) paid on export goods and refund of Input Tax Credit (ITC) on goods exported under Letter of Undertaking (LUT)/ Bond in July, August, and September, 2017 was still pending, the minister said. The Committee notes that a sharp liquidity crunch has gripped the majority of exporters due to the blocking of funds, Mitra said. "The delay in disbursing refund means your capital is blocked.
The Committees report said the (quantum of) blocked capital (stuck up with the government for refunds) could be between 15-20 per cent of the working capital. Declining of the working capital would lead to losing of jobs by the workers," Mitra pointed. "There are job losses due to lower business in gems and jewellery sector, I am also deeply concerned for the SME and the unorganised sectors which is cash based," Mitra said. Despite GST-related hurdles, Mitra was optimist about the overall growth of exports from West Bengal. In 2016-17, exports from the state were worth Rs 53,649 crore and it was expected to touch Rs 75,000-80,000 crore in 2019-20, Mitra said. Some 10 items account for almost two-thirds of the total exports with jewellery, fishery and leather among the major items of export from Bengal.