GST anniversary: Arun Jaitley makes first public address in two months, says best of scheme yet to come
New Delhi: Union minister Arun Jaitley made his first public appearance in two months via video conference on Sunday when he addressed the first anniversary of implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), India’s biggest economic reform since independence.
Jaitley stopped coming to office in early April owing to a kidney-related ailment. He underwent a kidney transplant on 14 May, following which the charge of the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs, which he had been holding since the BJP stormed to power in May 2014, was given on an interim basis to railways and coal minister Piyush Goyal.
While he was being treated for kidney ailment, Jaitley on 3 May chaired the GST Council meeting, his last public appearance. Since his surgery, he is confined to a controlled environment of his home to avoid contracting infection. He has held meetings with finance ministry officials through video conferencing from his home but had not made any public appearance.
Sunday as his first public appearance and he looked a bit frail physically but relaxed in a white pinstripe shirt during his 21-minute speech. Jaitley said GST has helped in boosting direct tax collections in the April-June quarter of this fiscal. He also said that as tax collections go up, further rate rationalisation would be possible.
The long-term impact of GST and on India’s GDP growth, on ease of doing business, on expansion of trade and business and make in India and honest trade and business centres, is going to be significant. I’m confident that the best of GST in terms of its contribution to society is yet to come, Jaitley said.
The government rolled out the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which encompasses 17 indirect taxes and a host of cesses, on intervening midnight of 30 June and 1 July last year.
Observing that countries implementing GST had witnessed major disruption, Jaitley said he too had felt that it would cause disruption in the Indian economy. “I myself used to use the word disruptive when it came to major reform like GST because it takes time to settle down. But after one year of experience I’m not too sure whether I can use the word disruptive for GST reform,” said Jaitley while addressing a function to mark completion of one year of the new tax reform through video conferencing.
“The smooth manner in which the changeover has taken place is almost unprecedented anywhere in the world … I’m sure we have seen the first year where we have seen effective gains this is only the short-term or at best medium term of GST… that the best of GST in terms of its contribution to society is yet to come.”
The GST, the minister said, would have a long-term impact on the country’s GDP growth, ease of doing business, expansion of trade and industry, make in India initiative, besides promoting honest business practices. “As the tax collection goes up, the capacity to rationalise the slabs, the capacity to rationalise the rates, also will certainly increase. And therefore that capacity to rationalise will increase once the total volume of tax collected significantly increases,” Jaitley said.
Stating that the input tax credit itself is an effective route for ensuring that people make their disclosures more faster, Jaitley said once you have a more efficient tax system it will ensure that evasion does not take place. “The e-way bill has already been implemented and once the invoice matching comes in, evasion and detection of evasion itself will become far simpler itself,” he said.
During the three months since April, Jaitley has kept himself busy writing blogs on issues ranging from GST to terrorism to imposition of emergency by Indira Gandhi. He was the chief defendant of the government on the issue of rise in deposits in Swiss banks. He even announced the resignation of chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian who had through a video conferencing with him, conveyed his decision to quit.
Besides, Jaitley defended government’s economic policy against the onslaught of former finance minister P Chidrambaram and the Opposition Congress party. He even wrote about the recent judicial verdicts, amendment to the insolvency and bankruptcy code done through an ordinance.
He narrated the four-year BJP-led NDA government’s performance as well as attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his knowledge and slammed the Opposition for trying to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.