Free Press Journal

New GST panel chairman in a few days: Jaitley


Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: The Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers will have its new chairman by consensus in the few days as the Centre gets ready to take up the GST Bill for consideration and passage in the next leg of Budget session beginning April 20. The Empowered Committee, which met today, could not take a decision on new Chairman. “We had a meeting with the (state) Finance Ministers who were here… By consensus we will have the new Chairman of the Empowered Committee in the next few days,” Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after a meeting with the state FMs here.

“It is agreed that we are going ahead with our Constitutional Amendment Bill in the second part of the Budget session,” Jaitley said. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is proposed to be rolled out from April 1, 2016. Although state Finance Ministers wanted Jaitley to nominate the new Chairman of the empowered committee, it was decided that the head of the panel should be selected by the Union Finance Minister on the basis of consensus. “Since a large number of Finance Minister are busy with their own budget sessions … we need to consult each one of them before we take a decision,” Jaitley told reporters here.

The empowered committee chairman’s post fell vacant after Abdul Rahim Rather, the former finance minister of Jammu & Kashmir, quit following defeat of the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls in December. The Chairman of the Empowered Committee has generally been from an opposition ruled state.

The first leg of the Budget session of Parliament ended today. It will resume after a month long recess on April 20. Gujarat Finance Minister Saurabh Patel said there was no discussion on names, but it was unanimously agreed that Jaitley should decide the new Chairman.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Manish Sisodia said Chairman should be one “who could devote time, travel extensively and have experience”. Finance Ministers of West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh were among those who attended today’s meeting.

Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das said it was not yet decided if another meeting would be convened or Chairman would be elected through consultations with state ministers individually. In December 2014, government introduced the long-pending GST Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha for roll-out of the new indirect regime from April 2016 subsuming various levies like entry tax and octroi.

Earlier this week, the Union Cabinet approved compensation to states for their revenue loss on account of phasing out of Central Sales Tax (CST). In current fiscal, Rs 11,000 crore would be given and the remaining amount in the subsequent two financial years.