The narrative that the NDA government has built in the last four years is very different from what they had inherited, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his reply to the discussion on the Budget in Lok Sabha on Thursday.
Under NDA India has been the fastest growing large economy, unlike the UPA era. “The narrative we had inherited,” was completely different from the narrative now, he said. Unlike the Congress, he said the NDA government was willing to bite the bullet to take tough decisions.
On the accusation of the opposition parties that GST was implemented “hastily”, Jaitley said that after the Constitutional Amendment was passed, it gave the government one year to bring in the new tax regime, as otherwise the government would not have been allowed to legally collect tax. He also said that the finance ministers of states ruled by Congress were privy to all the decisions regarding GST taken unanimously.
He said that the unlike richer countries, India could not have a single tax rate for all commodities because of poverty and wide income disparity in India.
Demonetisation, which he said was a “difficult decision” also had a “disruptive impact”, but it did not lead to a 2 percentage point decrease in the GDP growth, as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had predicted. Rather, after GST and demonetisation, personal income tax collected in the country had increased, so had the use of digital payments.
Trinamool Congress’ asked the Finance Minister about how much black money was collected after demonetisation, but Jaitley ignored that.
Deflecting criticism of introducing the Long Term Capital Gains tax on stock market gains, Jaitley said that there was a time when India wanted to attract more capital into the stock markets, but the tax exemption on it was for the “wealthiest” people. He said last year the exempted income was Rs 3.67 lakh crore. He admitted that among those who were exempted did include small, individual investors, but most were wealthy organisations.
Regarding the government’s disinvestment plans, the Finance Minister asked the house, “should we be spending money on the people, or spend money on losing businesses,” which he added can be run by private bodies. He emphasised that the government will continue to own assets in strategic sectors.
Defending the Budget, he said every year he has kept the middle class in mind. This year too, he said, he gave relief worth Rs 8,000 crore for the salaried class and Rs 4,000 crore for senior citizens and pensioners.
He attacked the Congress for high inflation, which he said had reached 11 per cent at one point, while the NDA government has managed to restrict the inflation to under 4 per cent.
The Finance Minister also accused the Congress of “disowning” Aadhaar, “after giving birth to such a good idea”. Aadhaar, he said had led to better targeting of subsidies and welfare policies. He said that he had been hearing about the need to “rationalise” subsidies, and Aadhaar has helped the government in doing that.