NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday offered to discuss with Congress changes in the Goods and Services Tax bill but also said that some of the party’s demands can “damage” more than benefit the system.
It would be “extremely unfair” to the country “if we try to impose in the name of political compromise, a GST with a defective architecture,” Mr Jaitley said at an event organized by industry body ASSOCHAM.
Responding to the comments, former finance minister P Chidambaram tweeted this morning: “FM’s confrontational speech at ASSOCHAM not the best way to reach out to opposition on GST.”
The sparring sets the tone for an all-party meeting today on GST, which will create a single market in India for the first time since independence and is expected to boost the economy.
The government aims at rolling out the new regime from April 1. The Congress blocked the GST Bill in the last session of Parliament over its demand that a revenue-neutral rate not higher than 18 per cent be mentioned in the Constitution Amendment bill.
“We are reaching out to them, we are willing to discuss with them because some of these suggestions may not necessarily be in the larger interest of the GST structure,” Mr Jaitley said, adding that those stalling reforms should realise that space for obsolete thinking is now shrinking and those who support reforms is much bigger than those who obstruct.
“The wisdom which dawned on my friends in the Congress party had not dawned on them when Pranab Mukherjee (as Finance Minister) introduced the GST (in 2011). It did not dawn on them when (then Finance Minister) P Chidambaram accepted the Standing Committee recommendations but to come out with the preposterous suggestion that tariff must be mentioned in the Constitution document so that in a given exigency if tariff has to be altered you need a two-third majority in both houses of Parliament and has to go to each of the states,” he said.
“And when tariff rate has to be mentioned in the Constitution itself, (then it) is a flawed architecture…Because the GST with flawed architecture can actually damage the system much more than it can benefit,” he said.