'Collateral reasons' delaying GST, but other laws coming: Jaitley (Roundup)

New Delhi, Dec 19: Lashing out at the Congress party again for blocking a pan-India goods and service tax regime, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said some reform-oriented laws, nonetheless, were expected to be passed during the remaining three days of what has been a none-too-productive winter session of parliament thus far.

"The next three days are crucial with very important pieces of legislation coming up before our parliament," Jaitley said here addressing the annual general meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

'Collateral reasons delaying GST'

Among the legislations listed by him, one was on the bankruptcy code and the other on arbitration.

Nonetheless, he said the steps taken by his government will prove to be beneficial. "We're hoping that structural reforms undertaken will help us go to 8 percent growth in 2016-17," he said, even as the mid-term economic survey released a day before had cut the prospect to 7-7.5 percent.

Jaitley's speech had political content as well, notably on the effort in vain, thus far, to get the goods and services tax bill passed in the current parliament session. "I've no doubt in my mind that the attempt to delay the GST is entirely for collateral reasons," he said.

"The only collateral reason I suspect is: 'If I couldn't do it, then why let someone else do it'!" Jaitley exclaimed, but added: "A delayed GST is better than a flawed GST."

As regards the legislations which the government wished the two houses to consider over the next three days, Jaitley said one of them sought to put India back on the global adjudication map for cases of arbitration as the costs of such litigation were enormous abroad.

"We're bringing in a bill for fast-track arbitration, including single-member tribunals."

He also referred to the proposed new bankruptcy code that aims to resolve cases of insolvency at the earliest so that amounts lent to such companies can also be recovered fast. The bill has proposed a timeline of 180 days, extendable by another 90 days, to resolve such cases.

Speaking at the event later, Jaitley's deputy and Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha forewarned that low farm sector growth and the cost of implementing the pay commission recommendations together with a slow global expansion will prove to be taxing for his government next year.

"Next year is a challenging year. Headwinds of two major factors will be slowing us down," Sinha said, adding the slowing farm output growth was the result of two successive years of bad monsoon and the global slowdown was hitting India's merchandise exports.

He also said the government has its task cut out in meeting the fiscal deficit targets.


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