Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said his government was confident of meeting the April 2016 deadline for implementing the goods and services tax (GST) and sounded optimistic about the infrastructure sector, where government spending really matters.
He said it is not how to find money, but it is all about the best way of spending it, adding that the government is not lacking in resources. On the contrary, he added, the government has enough surplus resources to invest.
"It's not about the money; there's Rs70,000 crore extra this year, and there are cess inflows, and tax-free bonds. The challenge lies in spending," Jaitley told investors at a Citi-hosted conference.
The finance minister said the government has opened up closed sectors such as insurance, defence and railways, announced lowering of corporate taxes (starting FY16) and eliminated all government discretion, which fed corruption.
Earlier, speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Council interactive meeting, he also proscribed retrospective decision making which, he said, created unacceptable liabilities for the investor.
Jaitley, on a nine-day trip to the US, allayed concerns of US business community and investors. Any decision which is retrospective and creates fresh liabilities is not acceptable, he said.
"I have no difficulty in saying that any decision which is retrospective, except in some very unusual circumstances, which creates fresh liabilities is certainly not acceptable," he told a New York audience when asked about the concerns of the US business community with regard to retrospective taxes.
"Therefore, ever since the present government has been formed, we said it when we were not in government and therefore we've lived up to our word, this government will not legislate anything that is retrospective," he said.
"The government has started putting money substantially into the sector so the sector will start moving. The resources have come from the budget. The resources have come from the increased tax on petrol and diesel. And therefore extra resources this year have been put in," he said.
"The result of this is that a completely stalled infrastructure sector has started moving. Today, still short of our target, but we have now started building about 13 kilometers a day. Our target is to cross 20 and reach 30 kilometers a day of national highways," he said.
Jaitley said the present "agrarian distress will carry" on unless "we are able to make lesser number of people dependent" on agriculture for livelihood.
"Therefore, you need to get a large number of people out into other areas," he said.
And, ultimately, this whole debate on the land law in India is centered around this point, the minister said.
Asserting that the 2013 land law is the most "unfriendly law" to the rural sector, he said, "It prevents irrigation projects. It prevents rural roads. It prevents rural electrification projects, because it doesn't make land available for any one of them. It prevents low-cost housing in rural areas, land available for that."