Tokyo: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today expressed confidence that the much delayed Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill will be passed in the monsoon session, saying “almost every political party” is supporting it.
Speaking at ‘The Future of Asia’ Conference organised by Nikkei Inc, he said the GST Bill — which creates a single national sales tax to replace several state and central levies — has already been approved by the Lok Sabha or Lower House of Parliament and is slated to come up in the Upper House where the government doesn’t have a majority.
“But I am optimistic because an overwhelming number of political parties, almost every political party, has supported it,” he said. Without naming opposition Congress, he said one party had some reservations on certain provisions. “We are trying to be in dialogue with them and make sure that we are able to bring them on board.”
The main opposition party wants the rate of the goods and services tax capped at 18 per cent, the proposed 1 per cent additional levy on inter-state trade be removed and an independent dispute resolution mechanism for states set up. The Congress had first proposed the GST in 2006. The present BJP government had originally planned to pass the GST Bill in Parliament in April, converting 29 states into a single market. But the deadline was missed as the bill remained stuck in the Rajya Sabha.
“And I am reasonably optimistic over the next session of Parliament, the GST reform will also ….(go through). And if that were to happen then our ability of implement it after passing supporting legislation in near future will also be very high,” he said.
Jaitley further said he believed that reforms in India are a continuous process. “There will be no finishing line as far as reforms are concerned. Both through legislation and executive action we still have a large number of steps lined up and that direction is consistently going to be maintained,” he added.
Once the GST, touted as the biggest reform of the indirect taxation since Independence, is passed, India will become one single market. After Parliament approves the constitutional amendment to allow GST, the measure needs to be ratified by more than half of states.
Then Parliament must pass another bill to implement the GST. The overall rate, which would vary for different goods, would be set by a newly formed GST Council.