Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday stuck to the April deadline for rolling out goods and services tax (GST) but acknowledged that there was a lot of unfinished work, which had to be completed during the monsoon and winter sessions of Parliament.
"I would have been much happier if the Rajya Sabha (had) also approved the GST. In that sense I would not have been cutting it too fine with regard to the April 1, 2016 deadline. I would only hope that the principal opposition party had realized the significance of this timeline at this moment," the minister told reporters.
The Bill to amend the constitution had to be referred to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha as the Congress blocked its passage, arguing that it needed further consultation. Once the panels report is received, the upper house will have to clear the Bill, which will then need to be ratified by at least half the state legislatures and will be followed by the GST Bill setting out the details. But, before the second Bill is moved, the Centre and the states will have to decide on the tax rate and other modalities and the IT backbone also needs to be ready to converge all indirect taxes levied by the Centre and the state into GST.
Jaitley said that except AIADMK, which had some concerns, every political party other than the Congress supported GST in substance. "Despite resistance from the principal opposition, there is large consensus on GST."
He also said that the economy was on the recovery stage with inflation under control, growth rate rising and fiscal deficit and current account deficit under control. "Only last one or two (reform legislations) are left and there the direction seems positive. I think from despondency we have entered the more positive zone."
A large part of the interaction with the media focused on Congresss "obstructionist" approach but appeared hopeful about the passage of the land and the GST bills. "The road map that we have now developed of sending it to the Joint Committee ...is probably the fastest route to get the land bill through."
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