FM Arun Jaitley asks Congress to reconsider GST stand,
NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has made a strong pitch for passing the goods and services tax (GST) in the monsoon session of Parliament, calling on Congress to support this important reform or allow the Rajya Sabha to function so that it can be deliberated.
"When we meet again in the monsoon session I think it will be an appropriate time for us to take a view," FM said in his reply to the debate on budget, clearly spelling out government's position.
"We want all parties to be on board, all state governments to be on board. Therefore, I will request your party (Congress) to reconsider its position and if you don't reconsider your decision then please allow the parliamentary process of decision by voting to take place," Jaitley said dismissing the three changes the principal opposition party is demanding. Rajya Sabha later passed the appropriation bill, marking the end of the budget process for FY17.
He pointed out the perils of including a 18% cap on the GST rate in the constitution, saying it will mean that luxury goods will be taxed at the same rate as commodities used by the common man. "Should a BMW car manufactured in India be taxed only at 18%? It must be taxed at much more. Why do you want a constitutional cap?" Jaitley asked. "I have no difficulty with 18% rate. Taxes must be reasonable," FM said but reasoned the same could not be built into the constitution.
Moreover, if there was an urgent need to raise the rate, then the entire lengthy process of constitutional amendment will have to be gone through."We all know how difficult it is to amend the constitution," FM said.
He also dismissed the suggestion on GST tax disputes mechanism saying the UPA law had also said it should be dealt in the GST council, a body of states and centre. "You now turn back and say 'No', our insistence is create a dispute redressal mechanism where taxation dispute redressal mechanism where taxation dispute between centre and states we will appoint a judge to resolve it," Jaitley said questioning the idea. He said bill provides that if there is a deadlock in the council, the same will be resolved by a mechanism suggested by the council itself. "These are political problems which have to be resolved politically. These are not judicially determinable matters," he said. He also dismissed criticism of the GDP growth numbers. "Central statistical Organisation functions at arm's length from the government," FM said in his reply pointing out that growth estimates for the last two years of UPA government were also revised up. "It is not that some exercise the NDA government has done in order to push up and give an appearance of statistical growth. Indian economy grew 7.6% in FY16 according to official estimates, a number questioned by some for not being consistent with some of the data such as poor industrial growth.