New Delhi: In an effort to narrow the current account deficit (CAD), the government on Wednesday raised the custom duties on as many as 19 non-essential items, including jet fuel, air-conditioners, washing machines and refrigerators, effective midnight as it aims to curb imports of non-essential goods.Also Read - International Travel: Open Air Travel For Vaccinated Passengers, Says Global Airlines' Association
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Total import bill on account of shipment of these items into the country last fiscal was Rs 86,000 crore, the Finance Ministry said in a statement. Also Read - This Country Lifts Ban on Passenger Flights From India. Details Inside
The other items include washing machines, speakers, radial car tyres, jewellery items, kitchen and tableware, certain plastic goods, and suitcases.
“The central government has taken tariff measures, by way of increase in the basic customs duty, to curb import of certain imported items. These changes aim at narrowing the current account deficit (CAD) … In all the customs duty has been increased on 19 items,” the ministry said.
The import duty on air conditioners, household refrigerators and washing machines (less than 10 kg) doubled to 20 per cent. The basic customs duty on compressors, speakers and footwears raised to 10 per cent, 15 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
The duty on radial car tyres raised from 10 per cent to 15 per cent while for cut and polished diamonds, semi-processed diamonds, lab grown diamonds, coloured gem stones the import hiked from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.
The articles of jewellery, goldsmith and silver wares will now attract a duty of 20 per cent, up from 15 per cent earlier.
Import of bath wares, packing material, tableware, kitchenware and office stationary items, decorative sheets, beads and bangles, trunk, suitcases, and travel bags will now attract basic customs duty of 15 per cent as against 10 per cent earlier.
Besides, the government has also announced an import duty of 5 per cent on aviation turbine fuel (ATF). It was nil earlier.
The announcement follows a decision taken by the government on September 14 that the centre would impose curbs on import of non-essential items to contain the widening CAD and check the rupee fall. The CAD widened to 2.4 per cent of the GDP in the first quarter of 2018-19.
Niti Aayog Vice chairman Rajiv Kumar, “Some actions had to be taken. In 2013 if you remember, same sort of thing had been done. These are steps to assure industrialists and others that the government is ready to take steps to get the external account into balance and control the CAD. But the key is to increase the exports.”
“To address the issue of expanding CAD, the government will take necessary steps to cut down non-essential imports and increase exports. The commodities of which imports will be cut down will be decided after consultations with concerned ministries and will be WTO-compliant,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the economic situation.
Large trade deficit and rupee decline against the US dollar are putting pressure on the CAD, and these steps are likely to have a positive impact on the external sector.
The rupee touched an all-time closing low of 72.91 against the dollar on September 12. Today it closed at 72.6 against the US dollar.
The domestic currency has declined by around 6 per cent since August. Petrol and diesel prices have also touched record highs recently.