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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Nirmala Sitharaman says govt open to criticism, cites ‘worst finance minister’ barb

Defending the government's decision to reduce the corporate tax rate, Sitharaman said the move will attract investment as a lot of domestic and foreign companies have shown interest to invest post tax reduction.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 2, 2019 8:59:11 pm
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha that nowhere in the world do the prices of petrol and diesel remain steady for a particular period of time. (File photo)

It is unfair to say that the government is not willing to listen to criticism, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Lok Sabha on Monday, referring to industrialist Rahul Bajaj’s remark that corporates lack the confidence to criticise it.

“We are a government that listens, whether it is criticism or an input. When the home minister responded to an industry leader, it was with a clear attitude that we are willing to hear or take criticism,” she said during a debate on Taxation Law Amendment Bill, 2019.

Sitharaman also denounced the personal attacks aimed at her, saying it is in some people’s DNA to ask questions and run away.

“I have been told that I am the worst finance minister, they’re not even waiting for me to finish my term. I told them that please give me more ideas, we will work on it. If there’s a government that listens, it is PM Modi’s government,” she said.

“I have been called names in the Parliament. If it is in anyone’s DNA to ask questions and run away before answers are given, it is some other party and not our party. Each time we come to give replies instead of name-calling,” she added.

Sitharaman’s statement came in response to Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury who called her “Nirbala Sitharaman” for allegedly being afraid to speak her mind.

Defending the recent corporate tax rate cut, Sitharaman said it helps both small and big businesses, and will attract investment.

“We’re called ‘suit-boot ki sarkaar’ again and again. We are told that lowering corporate tax helps only rich. I want to tell them that corporate tax cut helps all small and big businesses registered according to Companies Act,” she said.

Taking a dig at the Congress, Sitharaman said, “Who are the 68 lakhs beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat? Who are those 11 crore people who got toilets in their houses? Are they someone’s ‘damaad or jija‘? We don’t have jijas in our party, we only have karyakartas.”

She further said that with the reduction of corporate tax rate, the effective rate will come down to 25.17 per cent from 34.94 per cent. The effective tax rate for new manufacturing companies, which will be entitled to 15 per cent rate would be 17.16 per, she said.

On tax collection

Allaying the fears of corporate tax cut impacting the revenue collection, Sitharman said the gross direct tax collection increased by 5 per cent till November.

On the liquidity issue, the finance minister said banks have disbursed about Rs 2.5 lakh crore during their recent outreach programme. Of this, Rs 1.5 lakh crore were fresh term loans.

On petrol prices

Replying to a query on whether the government proposes to reduce taxes on petrol and diesel to bring down its prices, Sitharaman said, “At present, there is no proposal to reduce taxes on petrol and diesel.” The minister said that nowhere in the world do the prices of petrol and diesel remain steady for a particular period of time

She, however, assured that the government is not planning to levy any new tax on petrol and diesel.

To a query on whether both the commodities would be brought under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, she claimed that in a way, they are already under the zero rate category of the GST.

PMC bank issue

During the question hour, Sitharamn took up the question on PMC Bank scam issue, saying that nealry 78 per cent depositors are now allowed to withdraw their entire account balance up to Rs 50,000. The cap on withdrawal amount can be increased to Rs 1 lakh for scenarios like marriage, education, livelihood by invoking the ‘hardship provisions’ of the RBI.

“Nearly 78 depositors are now allowed to withdraw their entire account balance. They are small depositors. With this, the concerns of all small depositors are being taken care of,” she said during Question Hour.

The minister also said steps are being taken to seize properties of promoters of the PMC Bank, which will then be auctioned to repay the depositors.

(With inputs from PTI)

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