Govt making all efforts to pass GST Bill in Winter Session, reaches out to opposition

New Delhi – The government is reaching out to the Opposition to bring it on board to ensure passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for GST in the Winter Session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu has said.

The Constitution amendment bill for introduction of GST, a new indirect tax regime, has been passed by Lok Sabha, and is pending in Rajya Sabha where the ruling alliance does not have majority. The main opposition party, the Congress, has been opposing the passage demanding inclusion of a few provisions in the Bill.

Terming GST as the “need of the hour”, Naidu said: “GST should be passed in the Winter Session of Parliament. I appeal to all political parties not to have political consideration, but to think in terms of national interest.

There are other political issues on which we can fight but GST has been pending for the last seven years.”

He added: “I am confident (about the passage of GST) as the Parliamentary Affairs Minister. I am already in touch with some of the Opposition parties. We are discussing with them and they have meaningful suggestions… they can also be taken into consideration while adopting the Bill in Parliament.”

The Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will subsume more than a dozen state levies to create a single market, is to be implemented from April 1, 2016. But the deadline may be missed if Parliament does not pass the Constitution Amendment Bill in the upcoming Winter Session starting November 26.

“Due to (introduction of GST), India’s GDP will rise by 1.5-2 per cent, according to experts. We are seeing that the world market is slowing down, China is going a little negative and India is the most attractive place,” Naidu said.

“It is a great opportunity for India, for we should take the initiative and make Indian economy more strong so that interest rates can come down and you can spend more on welfare and developmental activities.

Separately, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha also said the government was in continuous consultation with the opposition parties on the proposed GST.

“We are trying to talk with them about all the aspects of GST… we all recognise how important this is for the economy for all of India so we are in continuous discussion to see what we can do to get it passed in the Winter Session.”

Further, Sinha said the “right now what we are working” on is to ensure that there is a consensus on GST itself and some of the contentious matters that are associated with it.

He said a high-powered committee to suggest revenue neutral GST rate will submit its report in the first week of December.

“We just had a consultation with the Chief Economic Advisor and his committee that has been studying the question of revenue neutral rate. They have pulled together a lot of data from many different sources.

“So we have a comprehensive set of number. We have finalised the parameters that will be necessary to establish the rates. That is now being looked at. We will have something by the first week of December,” he told reporters here.

Sinha said that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on several occasions stressed that the government’s goal is to “come at a reasonable rate” that will be good for the economy.

“…and that’s what the Chief Economic Advisor (Arvind Subramanian) and his committee have taken under advisement and I am sure they will consider all of that as they put together their analysis,” Sinha added.

He said the report will be issued in the first week of December.

“What the actual rate is in any case is to be established not by the constitution amendment but by the GST bill.

“Of course we have had some input that there should be a rate that is fixed by the constitution amendment itself. So that is an item under discussion but as of now our view is that that should be in the GST bill and not in constitutional amendment,” Sinha said.

Some opposition parties are demanding that the GST rate should be fixed at 18 per cent.

The Rajya Sabha Select Committee has suggested that the GST rate should not go beyond 20 per cent as higher rates could fuel inflation and erode the confidence of consumers.

The government is hoping to get the bill approved in the winter session beginning on November 26 and complete the other necessary legislative work by March 31.

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