September is a special month. On the 5th of this month, we celebrate Teachers’ Day. Teachers are our gurus, our guides , our hand-holders and motivators. Teachers shape our communities and our outlook towards life. It is the teacher’s special skill to encourage the ones left behind and to build up their confidence to face the world. They prepare us in the present to be who we are in the future . But learning in life never ceases. It is an un-ending process. Nothing prepares us for failure except the will to re-learn and to try again. And that is when we become our own teacher. The events around us, the people , the challenges and the opportunities become our teachers. But in this phase there is little or no hand -holding. It is upto us to seek and to learn.
After graduation, many students find themselves at a loose end. They find that jobs are difficult to come by and industry feels that students though armed with a degree are not job-ready. The Education Committee of the Chamber in association with the Directorate of Technical Education decided to put the spotlight on this issue (very appropriately in September if I may add) by inviting all the stakeholders on a common platform. Called the ‘The Internship & Apprenticeship Programme’ for the engineering graduates of Goa. This was launched by Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar in the presence of Chairman of Board of Apprentice Training (WR), Vice Chancellor Goa University, Secretary Finance, Captains of Industry and Principals & Faculty of Engineering Colleges and students. Being a chartered accountant myself, I personally totally support internship as the chartered accountancy course is the most hands-on training course where students learn on the job. The CM also emphasized that only internship and apprenticeship help students to understand the relevance of theory studied in college. I totally agree with the Vice Chancellor, Goa University, Dr Varun Sahni that in the global economy, knowledge possessed by students has little meaning unless they know how to process and utilize it.
September was also the month when the road show of ‘The National Entrepreneurship Awards’ was organized at the Chamber by GCCI’s IT & YEF Committee in association with Centre for Incubation, Innovation & Entrepreneurship of IIM Ahmedabad. It was indeed gratifying to know that the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MoSDE) has instituted these awards to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship across the country. While the participants, the local start-ups, were enthused about this event, they felt that the 30 year age cap criterion would limit many start-ups from qualifying. While we agree that the age limit could be extended, we appreciate the proactive stance of the Government of India by instituting these annual awards aimed to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and to highlight models of excellence for others to emulate and improve upon. With its vision of “Make in India’, to strengthen India’s manufacturing sector, the government of India wants to facilitate the Ease of Doing Business by eliminating unnecessary laws and regulations. This encompasses many changes on the labor front also. Now the Bill on The Code on Wages, 2017 has been placed in the parliament. It continues to bestow the power of fixing the minimum wages to the State Government. However, it empowers the Central Government to fix the national minimum wage. Further, it provides that the minimum rate of wages fixed by the State Government shall not be less than the national minimum wage. This could be disastrous for the industry in Goa and smaller cities in India. GCCI not only drafted a response to this, but we also got on board, other organisations such as CII Goa, GSIA, TTAG, GPMA and CREDAI and sent a joint representation to the Secretary Labour, Government of India on behalf of the industry in Goa. We do hope that the government reconsiders the impact of this on the industry in smaller cities in the country. We have also requested our Hon’ble CM for his support.
The introduction of GST is a game-changer in many ways. To put it mildly, it is a challenge. And it will be one of the biggest learning experiences for all. Last year when July 2017, was declared as the date for the introduction of CST many were not just hoping and but were quite certain that the date would be postponed. It was thought to be a high-impact low likelihood kind of event and many expecting the latter to be more likely, chose to look the other side. On our part, GCCI tried to enable the members to try to learn or know the new ropes of the trade. Seminars after seminars were held and we tried to get the best teachers- in this case chartered accountants and government officials to unravel the mystery of GST. While the Government surely needs to be complimented for taking this brave decision to introduce GST, the tax officials – both from the Centre as well as the State – deserve special appreciation for putting up full-proof and meticulous GST legislations for seamless implementation.
The transition is definitely not an easy one. When it is a fundamental shift in the entire country’s accounting system, there are bound to be issues in understanding and implementing it. The primary sector – agriculture to the tertiary sector – services and everything in-between is affected.
GCCI has listed about 30 points including issues about registration, submission of returns & payment of taxes, reverse charge mechanism, place of supply the composition of schemes as also scope to amend errors, portal generated errors, double registration etc. as areas needing attention. We have also said that Rate Schedules needs a relook. In the present set-up it is likely to raise a large number of classification disputes . GCCI had prepared a detailed note on all those issues and met Hon’ble Chief Minister Mr. Manohar Parrikar and also Panchayat Minister Mr. Mauvin Godinho who represents Goa State on the GST Council. Both Mr. Parrikar as well as Mr. Godinho assured us that they would take up these issues with the GST Council at its next meeting. We have also written to the Finance Minsiter, Mr Arun Jaitley to kindly consider our representation.
So GST is an important lesson which we are all learning. And while there is no one teacher who can teach us that, it is the joint efforts of all stakeholders with the government, the bureaucrats and officials which will help us learn one of the biggest lessons in the financial and accounting history of the country.