Difficult to predict timeline for GST bill passage: Sinha

New Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) The government on Wednesday said it is unable to predict a timeline for the passage of the GST Bill, currently stalled in the Rajya Sabha because the ruling NDA does not have the required numbers in the upper house of parliament.

“We will have to see how the legislative calendar develops… It’s very hard to predict how soon that will happen,” Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha told reporters here replying to queries on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill.

“GST is a transaction tax that can be put in place virtually overnight, but there is the legislative calender, then states have to pass it,” he said on Wednesday as the winter session of parliament was adjourned sine die.

At an all-party meeting held by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari last week, the opposition, after weeks of confrontation on various issues, had agreed to pass certain bills in the Rajya Sabha in this final of the session, but consensus was elusive on the GST bill.

The Congress party is asking for a cap on the GST rate to be included in the constitution amendment bill, as also scrapping the proposed one percent additional tax on inter-state movement of goods on grounds that this would have a cascading inflationary effect on prices.

At an interaction with industry chambers here last week, Jaitley said the Congress’s pre-condition that the cap of 18 percent GST be placed in the constitutional amendment was difficult to accept because it would make raising taxes for exceptional reasons very difficult.

“Give up the rigidness on constitutionally prescribed (GST) tariffs, which can become an albatross around the necks of future generations,” he exhorted the Congress on Saturday here.

The GST Bill, which seeks to usher in a pan-India common market by reforming the country’s indirect tax regime, was passed in the Lok Sabha in May, but has been stuck since in the Rajya Sabha.

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