December 6, 2019 2:00:16 am
Hours after she was criticised by her predecessor and Congress leader P Chidambaram on her remarks that her family “has little to do with onions”, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said she was called “elitist” and criticised for her remark without taking its context into consideration.
Sitharaman said she “spoke extensively for 20 minutes” on the measures the government is taking to tackle rising onion prices but was criticised for a remark taken out of context.
Reacting to Sitharaman’s remark on onions, Chidambaram said on Thursday, “Finance Minister said yesterday that she doesn’t eat onions. So what does she eat? Does she eat avocado?” His reaction came a day after Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha that she belongs to a family “that has little to do with onions”.
Sitharaman, who was speaking in Rajya Sabha in the evening after discussion on the legislation regarding corporate tax reduction, hit back: “What was the statement given by one of the finance ministers when in 2012 price rise was high? ‘When the urban middle class can buy a bottle of water for Rs 15, why do they make so much noise about price rise?’”
She said the government’s decision to lower corporate tax was not just “good PR or good for headlines” but signified the government’s commitment to good reforms.
The Rajya Sabha approved the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, replacing an ordinance used to slash corporate tax rate. She also said that “rollbacks are not wrong per se”, and the decision was taken considering the “developing situation”. The decision, she said, was taken in view of the US-China trade war, and so that India remains competitive.
Replying to a debate on the Bill, she said the amendment carries a negative list of industries that will not qualify for lower tax rate meant for manufacturing companies set up on or after October 1, 2019, but that begin production before 2023. The negative list includes computer software development, mining and printing of books as they are not manufacturing per se, the minister added.
Sitharaman had on September 20 announced lowering of the base corporate tax rate to 22 per cent from 30 per cent for companies that do not seek exemptions, and reduced the rate for some new manufacturing companies to 15 per cent from 25 per cent. Including surcharges and cesses, the effective corporate tax rate will drop by nearly 10 percentage points to 25.2 per cent.
The objective of providing a lower 15 per cent corporate tax rate for new manufacturing units was to draw new investment, Sitharaman said. New manufacturing companies have been given the option to move to the higher 22 per cent tax bracket if they fail to satisfy conditions meant for availing of lower rates, she said.
Sitharaman also promised to continue rollout of reforms to boost the economy. She said that while tax authorities should not harass citizens, no wrongdoer can be let off.
The discussion saw Congress’ Jairam Ramesh slamming the government for reducing the corporate tax days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Howdy Modi event.
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