GST only a matter of time, says Jaitley

04 November 2015

Finance minister Arun Jaitley today expressed confidence that the long-awaited goods and services tax (GST) to replace a plethora of central and state taxes would be enacted sooner rather than later.

"It is only a question of time, since obstruction won't continue indefinitely. As and when it is put to vote, I see GST becoming a reality," he said at an industry event in New Delhi.

Support legislations and the IT backbone to roll out GST are ready, the finance minister said. "The moment the Upper House passes it, we can get 50 per cent of states to ratify it and be in a position to put it in motion."

GST has made "considerable headway", Jaitley said, adding that the parliamentary standing committee had recommended it and the Lower House had passed it by a two-third majority.

"Almost all state governments are on board. And I must say even the state governments of the Congress party have supported it," he said.

However, Jaitley added, "I say with a sense of regret that there was a policy somersault as far as the Congress is concerned and regrettably, it was led by the people who had moved the GST Bill. This policy somersault was not for any policy reason, it was for political reason because the policy seems to be obstructive."

The minister has been discussing the issue of passage of the GST Bill with leaders of the Congress and other political parties.

"I am willing to discuss with the Congress party. I have so far discussed with their leaders and I can't find, at least, conceptual opposition to it. I will once again speak to them and try to make them see reason," he said.

He added that the composition of the Rajya Sabha would change in coming months and would make it easier for the government to function.

Jaitley was of the view that the public opinion is in favour of economic reforms and against those who obstruct them. "Temporarily, they may be able to halt certain measures. But I think once the direction is set, the movement for that change will go on," he said.

Global investors, Jaitley said, have shown interest in India at a time when the world economy is passing through a "very challenging moment".

"We set a direction for the Indian economy consistently with every measure, we are moving in that direction and we are not allowing any policy change which is in contrarian direction. I think India has become highly aspirational," he said.

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