Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley left a lasting imprint on the economy as structural reforms taken under his watch will continue to have wide-ranging impact in the years to come. Starting from the year 1998, when he first became a minister, Jaitley has consistently been the government’s go-to man during any crisis and the public face of the administration. Follow LIVE updates
Built political consensus for GST
Apart from a series of measures to enhance the productivity of the Indian economy, Jaitley was instrumental in bringing political consensus for a marathon legislative process and subsequent implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) – an indirect tax reform aimed at promoting seamless trade across the country. Building the political consensus for the GST, both at the national level and among all the states is perhaps the most significant task that Jaitley managed to achieve.
Several decisions, including legislative drafting, rules drafting, notifications, fixing initial rates and rationalising rates under GST were taken under his chairmanship of the GST Council, without undertaking voting. “The political noise outside is inconsistent with the harmony inside the Council,” Jaitley had written in one of his Facebook posts titled ‘Eighteen months of GST’ in December 2018.
Pushed banks to recover bad loans through IBC Act
In his role as Finance Minister, as a mountain of stressed assets made the banking sector moribund, he moved to get the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) enacted – much-required legislation which pushed banks to pursue recovery of bad loans of more than Rs 10 lakh crore in a time-bound manner. Timely capital infusion in public sector banks and the merger of weak banks with strong banks ensured that state-owned banks did not go belly up.
The government also provided record capital infusion of more than Rs 2.1 lakh crore, much of it through an innovative route of recapitalisation bonds which enabled equity injection without disturbing fiscal deficit targets.
While demonetisation was a challenging policy disruption under his watch, which pulled down economic growth to record lows, his budget proposals over the course of the last five years unveiled measures aimed at attracting foreign investment, lowering corporate tax rate for MSMEs, introducing an ambitious National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) and promising a minimum 50 per cent return over production cost to farmers.
Apart from his tenure as the finance minister, he also served in a variety of ministerial posts in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) between 1999 and 2004, including Minister of Law, Justice, and Company Affairs and Minister of Commerce and Industry. After the NDA lost power in the 2004 elections, Jaitley was appointed as the BJP’s general secretary.
In 2003, he was appointed as Minister of Commerce & Industry and Law & Justice. As Commerce Minister, Jaitley had unveiled the export-import (exim) policy emphasising on the importance of service exports and the need for speedier implementation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and identifying these as the engines of growth. Jaitley had said, “the process of getting the zones ready should not have roadblocks”.