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UP Prepared For Third COVID Wave, Favours GST Cuts To Facilitate Patients: State FM

The GST Council on May 28 left taxes on COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies unchanged after the BJP and Opposition-ruled states sparred over whether the tax rate cut benefits will reach the common man.

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Uttar Pradesh is in all preparedness to deal with the third wave of COVID-19 and the state would not resort to hiking taxes for raising resources to fight the pandemic, state Finance Minister Suresh Kumar Khanna said on Wednesday.

He said the UP government is in favour of cutting taxes on COVID essentials to facilitate patients, but will accept the decision of the GST Council with regard to Goods and Services Tax rates.

'The moment experts predicted that a third COVID wave may hit the country, UP government has started making arrangements for 50 isolation and 50 ICU beds, and 10 beds for holding area... We have also done manpower training,' Khanna said in an online interaction with reporters here.

'We have all preparedness (for third COVID wave). No one predicted a second wave, but we are fully prepared for the third wave if it comes,' said Khanna, who also holds the Medical Education portfolio.

He said UP has not raised VAT rates to raise resources to fight COVID and Value Added Tax on petrol and diesel is Rs 26.80 and Rs 17.48, respectively. This is lower than the rates in states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh.

'We believe in bettering our own infrastructure, rather than raising tax rates. We will accept whatever decision the GST Council takes,' he said.

When asked about lowering taxes on COVID relief items, he said since he is a member of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on this issue, he would not be commenting on it. 'However, Uttar Pradesh government is in favour of tax rate cuts to facilitate patients,' Khanna said.

The GoM on GST concessions on COVID relief items was mandated to examine whether a GST rate cut or exemption is required for medical grade oxygen, pulse oximeters, hand sanitizers, oxygen therapy equipment like concentrators, ventilators, PPE kits, N-95 and surgical masks and temperature checking equipment.

Besides, the panel looked into COVID vaccines, drugs, and medicines for COVID treatment and testing kits for coronavirus detection.

The GoM was set up after the meeting of the GST Council, which is chaired by Union Finance Minister and comprise state ministers, on May 28. The panel has submitted its report, which will now be taken up for consideration by the Council in its next meeting.

The GST Council on May 28 left taxes on COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies unchanged after the BJP and Opposition-ruled states sparred over whether the tax rate cut benefits will reach the common man.

Congress and other Opposition- ruled states have been demanding a reduction in taxes but the central government felt the move may not result in tangible gains for people.

Currently, 5 per cent GST is levied on domestically manufactured vaccines, while it is 12 per cent for COVID drugs and oxygen concentrators.

(PTI)