No definite figure of black money: Govt in Rajya Sabha

Krishnanand Tripathi

The government today admitted that it had no definite estimate of black money in the economy, leading the opposition to question the effectiveness of demonetisation exercise to weed out unaccounted cash.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha.

While refusing to divulge the quantum of black money,  the finance minister justified the note ban saying it helped to identify the owners of anonymous money operating in the system.

Responding to Congress member MV Rajeev Gowda’s question about the figures used by the government while taking a decision to ban 85% currency in circulation in November last year, Finance Minister admitted, “No definite estimation can be made at this stage.”

A World Bank estimate in 2007 put the size of black economy in India to be around 27%. Various estimates put the black money stashed by Indians abroad from a few hundred billion dollars to over one trillion dollar.

Ruling party fought 2014 general election on the plank of tackling corruption and black money. Prime Minister Modi cited the role of high value notes in concealing the unaccounted wealth and money laundering while announcing his decision to replace them with new ones to curb black money, terror financing and money laundering.

Justifying the government’s decision to replace high value notes last year, Jaitley said, “It is undeniably true that the large amount of cash money operating in the system does result in generation of black money.”

MV Rajeev Gowda, Congress Member in the Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2017.

MV Rajeev Gowda, Congress Member in the Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2017.

Jaitley argued that following the the demonetisation all high value notes were deposited into banks  and the anonymity which was there was extinguished and the money had been identified with its owners. He hoped that this money would now be used in financial transactions.

Talking about the exact quantum of black money, finance minister said three committees have given varied estimates about the quantum of black money in the country and CBDT had prepared a detailed note on them which would be submitted to the standing committee on finance for examination.

However, the minister’s reply failed to satisfy the Congress member who sought to know the quantum of black money and impact of demonetisation in tackling it.