FINANCE MINISTER Arun Jaitley lauded the political consensus on decisions on GST, described the GST Council as “India’s first federal decision-making body” and underlined an urgency to pass GST-related laws during the current session of Parliament.
Replying to the debate on the budget in Rajya Sabha Thursday, the finance minister also urged parties for suggestions on electoral reforms including electoral bonds for funding of parties. Jaitley also spoke on nonperforming assets and loan waiver for farmers. Asked by Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) about the BJP’s promise of waiving farm loans in UP, Jaitley said the government will not discriminate among states but the state governments are free to act as they feel.
On GST, he said four bills supporting the Constitution amendment law on GST enacted last year will be introduced in Lok Sabha shortly. The government is keen on a July 1 rollout of the new regime. “We had notified on September 16 the Constitutional Amendment that was passed and as per that law one gets a switchover period of one year. If we fail to do the switchover in this period, there is scope for extending this period. Hence the legal entitlement to collect taxation automatically comes to an end after September 15, “ he said.
The cabinet cleared the four bills Monday. Jaitley said nine bylaws have to be framed, of which four have been approved and hopefully the remaining five would be approved by March 31. While most of decisions have been taken with consensus, he said aspects such as bringing petroleum and land under the ambit of GST will be considered after the first year of implementation. Jaitley said the chief economic adviser and the Delhi government favour inclusion of land because there is “enormous use of black money in it”.
In marine areas, he said, there is a dispute over revenue jurisdiction between the Centre and the states. Jaitley said that at some point there may be a need for “federal bureaucracy of taxation” under GST. On electoral reforms, Jaitley rejected the Opposition’s criticism of the decision to launch electoral bonds, saying it was aimed at cleansing the system and asked parties to give suggestions to make the process better instead of simply criticising it.
“People were ready to pay (political parties) by cheques but there has been a fear that they could land in trouble as their identity would stand exposed. Through the electoral bonds we have addressed both issues —ensuring clean donations and keeping identity of the donor confidential,” he said.
When Anand Sharma said the Congress is not getting funds, Jaitley replied, “You will also benefit. If a government frames a law that helps even the Opposition, it shows how big a heart it has.”
On the budget proposal to cap cash donations at Rs 2,000 per source, down from Rs 20,000, he said it was the recommendation of the Election Commission. SAD leader Naresh Gujral suggested making Aadhaar and PAN mandatory for cash donations, which Jaitley said was “not feasible”.