Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has expressed confidence that the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will replace more than a dozen state taxes, is only “a question of time”. Arun Jaitley also said that “obstruction” to the reform measure will not stand parliamentary vote. GST Bill is among the top priority in the reforms agenda of the incumbent Narendra Modi government. However, the legislation on the GST is still to be cleared by the Parliament where Modi government is facing a stiff opposition against the Bill.
Speaking at the National Strategy Day on India, jointly organized by the World Economic Forum and CII, Mr. Jaitley said that he is even open to meeting Congress leaders to resolve a parliamentary deadlock.
“I think GST is only a question of time since obstruction won’t continue indefinitely. As and when it is put to vote, I see GST becoming a reality,” Arun Jaitley said.
“I have both the supporting legislations that we need to implement GST in readiness. I also have the IT backbone in readiness. So, the moment the Upper House passes it, we can get 50 per cent of states to ratify it and be in a position to put it in motion,” the Union Finance Minister added.
GST, which will subsume more than a dozen state levies to create a single market, has been cleared in Lok Sabha and is to be implemented from April 1, 2016. But a Constitution Amendment Bill could not go through the Rajya Sabha in the last Monsoon session of Parliament due to Opposition protest on the twin issues of Lalit Modi controversy and a massive recruitment and admission ‘Vyapam scam’ in Madhya Pradesh.
The April 1 deadline may be missed if Parliament does not pass the Bill in the upcoming winter session.
Reaching out to the principal opposition party Arun Jaitley said he has been discussing the issue with a number of Congress members.
“Am I willing to discuss with the Congress party? I have repeatedly said I am,” he said adding further “I have so far been discussing it with their leaders and I can’t find at least conceptual opposition to it. I will once again speak to them and try to make them see reason.”
The Finance Minister also claimed that the considerable headway has been made on GST — the Parliamentary Standing Committee had recommended it and the Lower House (Lok Sabha) passed it by a two-third majority.
“Almost all state governments are on board. And I must say even the state governments of the Congress party have supported it. The Chairman of Empowered Committee (on GST) is Kerala Finance Minister,” he said.
The Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha had also approved the Bill. “Therefore, a national consensus has been built. The trading community in India, the industry, the business and the popular opinion all support the Bill,” Mr. Jaitley added.
Amid the issues surrounding the GST legislation, the principal opposition Congress party, which enjoys maximum number of members in Rajya Sabha, and the Left parties had flagged certain provisions when the Bill was examined by the House panel. The Opposition has all along been claiming that they are not against the Bill but only wants their suggestions to be taken on-board.
(With inputs from the PTI)