A GST for India: Now Comes the Hard Part

A decade-and-a-half in the making, last week both houses of Parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill that amends the Indian Constitution to create a Goods and Services Tax (GST), bringing India closer than ever before to functioning as a common market.

I have a new essay in Foreign Affairs that looks at what the GST means for India–and the hard road ahead when it comes to implementation. Here’s a taste of the challenges that await:

Even assuming speedy legislative action and a reasonable compromise on the GST rate, the path ahead is riddled with landmines. Businesses will have to incur costs to adjust to the new regime, which will be especially high for smaller firms that have never paid taxes or lack the technology and expertise to adapt. The government will have to train new tax collectors and implement a massive new online tax system. In fact, leading economists suspect that there could be adverse consequences to both growth and inflation in the short term until these teething pains subside. To further muddy the waters, legal experts are already warning of future lawsuits over the constitutionality of the GST, since it alters the basic federal–state structure outlined in India’s founding document by reallocating taxation powers.

You can read the full piece here.




Election Surveys in India

The terrific Indian journal, Seminar, has a special issue focused on the ins and outs of election surveys in India. The essays are gated until September 1, but for now you can read the introductory essay by Rahul Verma (the guest editor) here.

Election surveys have something of a checkered past in India. The essays in this special issue look at the problems, suggest solutions, and examine how surveys work in other democracies. To quote Rahul, the issue tries to address three questions:

First, is polling an imperfect science? Second, what is an ideal time to conduct a poll that proposes to study the political behaviour of citizens? And third, what would be the academic cost of not conducting polls at the time of elections?

Neelanjan Sircar and I have a piece on how to better leverage surveys in India from a research perspective. You can read that one here.