March 20, International Day of Happiness slipped by like a ship without lights in the night. There was no deluge of messages on social media or a blast of advertisements trumpeting ‘happiness offers’ as this day has yet to be noticed and commercialized. What caught my attention was a relatively inconspicuous piece in the newspapers about the World Happiness Report. Going through it I felt a tinge of unhappiness as India was poorly rated – plunging four ranks from 118 to 122…and rubbing salt into the wound was the fact that altogether there were155 countries being ranked.
Jeffrey Sachs, the report's co-editor said, “The World Happiness Report continues to draw global attention to the need to create a sound policy for what matters most to people – their well-being.” The happiness ranking is derived from six criteria: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, corruption level in govt and business, freedom to make life decisions and generosity. From the elaborate analysis, it is clear that happiness is not just about money, though it is a part of it. This is evident in the fact that oil-rich Norway (which toppled three-time leader Denmark) zoomed to the top despite depressed oil prices and a gloomy future for energy.
There is a lot that is going right with India – we have an economy that’s growing at a healthy pace; strong global inflows into the financial markets; proven credentials in space; several successfully implemented programs and reforms that are the envy of the world…We are even on the verge of rolling out GST which would be another remarkable achievement for an economy that’s so complex. So with such an upbeat scenario why is there such a strong disconnect between happiness and Indians? More importantly, should we sweep the World Happiness Report with all its analysis and insights under the carpet? Hopefully not! There’s much to be gained from tackling the demons that plague the well-being of the Indian citizens especially the rampant corruption, meagre social welfare and ideological repression that’s sweeping the nation.
It is a little late, but I would like to celebrate World Happiness Day with all of you by sharing a few of my favourite quotes that could be beacons of inspiration in riding the ‘downs’ in our lives.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects.” Albert Einstein
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Abraham Lincoln
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” Oscar Wilde
GST – Inching Forward
GST is the other news that dominates the media and is being eagerly anticipated by all – individuals and businesses of all sizes across India. Ten years in the making, GST is set to harmonize the indirect tax system by creating one of the largest trade zones in the world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is confident that GST implementation will result in the economy notching at least two percent growth. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley believes the economic growth in India could escalate to over eight percent in the immediate future. Defining the immense potential of the Indian economy, a research paper from the US Federal Reserve projects a 4.2% upswing in real GDP depending upon the tax rates…the lower the rate, the bigger the boost!
The ball is clearly in the court of the GST Council to ensure that the supporting rules are framed and the applicable tax rates for different product classes and sectors are clearly defined in good time and in a manner which will not leave much ambiguity in classification. This is essential as both the rules and rates have to be configured into the systems of the businesses to facilitate the seamless transition to GST. Some businesses and opinion leaders have suggested differing the launch to September to enable organizations to re-orient their accounting, compliance and regulatory processes for GST.
GST is a win-win reform for everyone. Companies are looking at a simplified tax structure that will boost productivity and lower costs. The formalization of the economy will minimize corruption and substantially boost tax compliance; providing larger revenues for development. In subsuming most of the indirect taxes, GST will eliminate tax ambiguity and improve the ease of doing business…ultimately attracting even more investments. With the elimination of the cascading impact of taxes, Indian exports will become more competitive and be in greater demand across the world. However, with the states insisting on ePermits for interstate transfer of goods, the major benefit of borderless states for goods will be lost and the truck queues at the check nakas will still remain.
Society is going all out in organizing workshops, seminars and lecture meetings on GST in the coming few months. It is reaching out to various trade associations to impart systematic training based on the NACEN guidelines. We are committed to the Government to shoulder some of its responsibilities of training maximum trade, industry and stakeholders to be GST ready.
Bulls on a roll
In a not so surprising development, a 30 kg cake was cut to celebrate the BSE bellwether index Sensex successfully scaling the 30,000 mark. The Sensex had earlier crossed the 30,000 milestones in intra-day trading on two occasions but for the first time closed at this level. The strong perception that the enhanced political stability will facilitate progressive reforms and in turn channelize investments is one of the pivotal reasons of the D-Street buoyancy.
The strong cues of a revival in global economic growth particularly in Europe and Japan have lifted investor sentiment, ensuring substantial inflows from foreign portfolio investors and domestic mutual funds. Keeping pace with the Sensex, the Nasdaq Composite too crossed the 6,000 mark for the first time reflecting Wall Street’s optimism about President Trump’s much-awaited tax reforms. The first round of the French presidential elections which hints at a centrist victory too has sent stocks spiraling upwards across the globe.
Clearly, the bulls are ruling the market right now and happy times are here again…I hope India will climb in the World Happiness Report next year.
BCAS has initiated a programme on how to reach out to its members who are located at far off places away from Mumbai but are so very keen to attend the various workshops, seminars and long duration courses organised. The Society will soon be launching an eLearning platform which is cloud-based and works on a “responsive” framework. It will have an option to allow the members to access content using any device, from any location and at any time. The possibilities of its training initiative are limitless. So, you will now be able to see and hear the expert speakers right at your location. Through this initiative, the Society also intends to reach out to the CA fraternity and students who are yet not the members of the Society. I request all my dear readers to popularize this platform once launched.
Honing skills of CAs
There is always a comparison between a CA and a MBA and it boils down to the conclusion that CAs are academically much more sound and great number crunchers but lack management skill sets due to which many a times MBAs are preferred as leaders. To put an end to such a dogma and to equip our members to acquire management and entrepreneurial skills, a course has been launched by BCAS along with Indian School of Management and Entrepreneurship (ISME) termed as “Executive MBA for CAs” - "CAMBA". I am sure members would avail the benefit of this course.