New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today indicated that the government may not be able to pass the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in the ongoing session of Parliament, but will introduce the bankruptcy Bill. Accusing the Congress for delaying GST for “collateral reasons”, he said: “Some people do get sadistic pleasure in seeing India slow down. But then, it’s a sadistic pleasure at a very severe national cost. We cannot allow that.”
The minister further said the government will push through changes in the arbitration Act and commercial court Bill in the Rajya Sabha in the remaining “crucial” three days of the winter session, which ends on Wednesday. Addressing the Ficci AGM, Jaitley said, “I have no doubt in my mind that attempt to delay (GST) is entirely for collateral reasons. And the only collateral reason I suspect is if I couldn’t do it, then why should somebody else do it?” He maintained that “a delayed GST is better than a flawed GST”.
The minister added that he would “still urge and persuade” the Opposition to give up their rigidity on Constitution prescribed tariffs. “The Constitution-prescribed tariffs actually can be an albatross around the neck of the future generation. And we owe it to them not to create situations of this kind,” he said. Meanwhile, Congress leader Anand Sharma said: “It (GST) is not going to happen in this session. We will engage with them, but this is not the right time. April 1, 2016, is not sacrosanct and not achievable at all.”
The GST Bill is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling NDA government does not have a majority as well as stiff opposition by the Congress. The government had planned to roll out GST from April 2016. Asked if the Congress would support the bankruptcy Bill, Sharma said: “We are in favour of passing what is urgent, what is appropriate.”
Jaitley further said the remaining three days of Parliament are “extremely crucial” and the government will try and push some of these reforms. The biggest challenge at the moment is to get the Indian politics to support the economic reforms in the midst of the global slowdown, he said, adding that the endeavour should be to overcome political obstacles coming in the way of growth. “Is the Indian politics going to be a support in this adverse global situation, to add the extra per cent or two to our current level of GDP or is it going to be an obstacle?…
“These are important pieces of reforms which we are going to try and I hope nobody tries to hurt the country’s interest by again invoking the word ‘but’.”Jaitley explained: “There is no point saying that ‘GST is good and we brought in the GST proposal, but’, I think this ‘but’ is a terrible phrase as far as Indian politics is concerned.”
GST is being touted as the biggest reform in indirect taxation since Independence. Sharma hoped GST will become a reality, but the government has to address the concerns of the Opposition “in the interest of the country”. “Opposition cooperation is not rubber stamping of what the government wants. We are authors of GST and this country will have GST,” Sharma said.
The Lok Sabha has already passed the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill and Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill. On the soft price scenario globally, the finance minister said: “Lower commodity price is a regime that has largely suited India and the longer it continues, the better it is. India is a net importer of oil and hence, low oil import bill helps its finances.”
And a large part of the money “that we earned there, we have been able to plough back”, Jaitley said, adding that oil companies have been able to recover their losses. “So, our fiscal figures, as a result of this, have never been as good despite an adverse global slowdown,” the Finance Minister said.