Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather,member of the National Conference,an ally of the UPA government,was unanimously elected as the chairperson of the Empowered Committee (EC) of state finance ministers on goods and services tax (GST). The post had been lying vacant since the resignation of Sushil Modi after the BJP-JD(U) split in Bihar. In an interview to Shruti
Srivastava,Rather discusses the challenges ahead. Excerpts:
What is the first challenge you will seek to address?
First,the constitutional amendment for GST,without which we cant go ahead. Under the GST,states would be given power to tax services which is not allowed currently. They will also be given power to tax imports as well. Similarly,until now the Centre cant levy tax on sale of goods. Under the new law,it will be allowed. It is currently being vetted by the Standing Committee on Finance and I am given to understand that the report will be submitted by them shortly.
The bill has to be passed by two-thirds majority in Parliament,and the ruling coalition does not have that. Other parties support is also needed,particularly the BJP.
Then there are other related issues like dual control,rate structure and threshold limit. These are under discussion,and the EC will not wait for the constitutional amendment and will carry on the work simultaneously. We will try to build consensus on these issues. We want this law to be passed unanimously.
The General Elections are due in a few months. Do you think the passage of bill is doable this year?
It can be done,there should be no difficulty. Once the Union finance minister is able to get consensus,it should get passed. However,the biggest task is to get the required support.
After the passage of the bill,how long will it take to implement the GST? Your predecessor said 80 per cent of the work is done.
We are already on the job. We are preparing the Central and state GST laws. Timeline would depend on the passage of the bill. It depends on political parties. The Union finance minister is very optimistic. He said there should be no politics as far as GST is concerned.
Do you think the election of EC chairperson from an ally will send a positive signal?
I cant say whether it will send a good message or a bad message. I am grateful they have shown trust and faith in me. I will try my best to come up to expectation of the committee. Everybody,even states which are ruled by opposition voted for me. It was not a ruling party decision alone.