India’s Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley said in an economist conference held in New Delhi on Wednesday (September 09) that he still wants the Goods and Services Tax Bill (GST) to be passed on April 1 2016, although the opposition Congress party could delay its passage through the legislature.
“I would like to see it being implemented by 1st April but if this kind of obstructionism remains then perhaps the Congress party may succeed in hurting India, hurting India’s economy and allowing it to delay it for some more time. But GST is now being almost supported by everybody. Even the objections being raised, most of them I don’t see any substance in it. But it’s only a matter of time before it is passed,” said Jaitley.
It is perhaps for the first time that the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken a less than definite stance on whether the bill will meet its deadline or not.
The government has so far always been certain on passing the bill on time but the recent obstruction created by the main opposition party, Congress has forced the government to think twice. Moreover, the statement by Jaitley followed when Congress opposed the special session of Parliament for passing the GST Constitutional Amendment Bill.
It is a matter of irony that the Congress which introduced the bill in 2011 under United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has become the road block for a bill which will replace local and regional taxes that have caused red-tape, confusion and corruption.
The delay in the passage of bill implies that India’s indirect tax system will continue with multi-layered taxes levied by the Centre and state governments at different stages of the supply chain.
The other consequences of delaying it will be that the state won’t be able decide on the tax rates until the bill is passed.
The bill itself has not specified the rates which are too be decided by a GST council which will be formed by the collaboration of central and state finance ministers. Till the bill does not get passed, GST council cannot be formed.
Moreover, plans to test the Information Technology( IT) network before its roll-out will have to be on hold since the bill is on hold and rates on specific goods and services have not been decided.
India has already missed several deadlines just because of political consensus. The country cannot continue to remain a collection of several different tax rules and rates.
Every deadline miss accounts into fewer jobs created, lesser revenues for states, and lower investments made. India cannot afford to continue with an indirect tax system indefinitely.
Being in opposition does not mean that every single step of the government has to be opposed. Uniting on some issue won’t profit any political party in the next elections. At the end, it is the common that has to suffer the burden of political arguments and fights.