Finance minister Arun Jaitley, while attending the African Development Bank’s annual meet, on Tuesday said that consensus building in the 14 meetings of the GST Council has been such that apart from six items there had not been a single vote against any issue and there was no doubt in the implementation of GST from July 1.
Jaitley said: “GST that was earlier considered a mere slogan and tough to implement, is an idea that has been around for 10-15 years since the Vajpayee government. But (we have managed) to build a consensus with all the states, get the bill passed in Parliament and to bring all the states together on the idea through consensus building. We have completed 14 meetings at the GST Council and apart from 6 items, there has not been a single vote on any issue and we have been able to do this with consensus from all the states. There is no doubt about GST being implemented from July 1.”
He said: “Any assessee today has an interface with multiple authorities of the state and Center, but there will be more ease after the first few months (of GST). More interfaces cause inconvenience and corruption, but now there is just one interface with no face-to-face meeting and everything will be done online. You can register online and put your transactions every month online and you will get used to it. Millions of vouchers will be filled by taxpayers every month and evasion will be difficult… a more efficient system will lead to higher tax buoyancy and therefore even with lower percentage you can afford to collect more.”
Compared with the economic policies of the previous UPA government, Jaitley said that the current government has ushered in reforms and clarity.
Terming demonetisation as a ‘tough decision’ that was deemed impossible, Jaitley said: “Through demonetisation, we have tried to redefine the ‘Indian normal’. Looking back 6 months after demonetisation, I recall criticism levelled at us that the GDP will fall and Manmohan Singh had said it will reduce by 2 per cent but nothing like that happened. We attempted something that no one dared to do in the last 70 years. The effects of demonetisation include the beginning of a movement towards digitisation of the economy. Digital transactions have multiplied, which is a big step and a positive outcome was seen in tax collection. There was always an anonymity attached to cash, especially cash that moved in the markets is unknown- nobody knew who owned it. By depositing it in banks, the anonymity ended…”
“So the number of tax payers increased as compared to last year’s in terms of personal income tax return numbers and there was also a record jump in its quantum. Thirdly, the idea that it is dangerous to deal in cash is spreading, which is better for the country, economy and businesses. The informal sector of the economy, will slowly get integrated into the formal sector. A decision that was considered tough and impossible was eased into the system,” he said.