With the passage of three vital legislation in the insurance, mining and coal sectors in Parliament, finance minister Arun Jaitley underpinned the government’s reforms agenda and exuded confidence that the measures would help the country get incremental investments while simultaneously offering resources-rich states an additional revenue stream.
The finance minister also asserted that the government will continue its reform impetus and take up the Constitution Amendment Bill on goods and services tax (GST) in the second half of the Budget session that will begin April 21.
“I hope that the Constitution Amendment Bill that was cleared by the standing committee, will be considered by Parliament in the second part of the Budget session. We may need to have another meeting for further consultations on these issues because a large number of state finance ministers are busy with their own Budget sessions,” Jaitley said.
Expressing satisfaction over the session, the finance minister said that the Budget proposals have been approved while three important legislation — insurance, mining and coal blocks allocation law — have been cleared by Parliament. “Therefore we will now see a lot of investment coming into the insurance sector. There will now be a completely non-discretionary and non-discriminatory allocation of coal and mining blocks. The industry will get the minerals and coal that it needs. And the mine and coal bearing states will get the revenue that they need,” he said.
Later, after a meeting with state finance ministers, he said that a decision on the new chairperson will be taken in the “next few days”. The empowered committee (EC) of the state finance ministers, which met on Friday, could not decide on its new chief and all the states present in the meeting “unanimously” said that the decision should be taken by the Union finance minister. “We had a meeting with the (state) finance ministers who were here … By consensus we will have the new chairman of the empowered committee in the next few days,” Jaitley added.
The post had fallen vacant following the resignation of Abdul Rahim Rather, former finance minister of Jammu & Kashmir, after the defeat of National Conference in Assembly polls in December.
The Centre has announced April 1, 2016 as the implementation date for the proposed GST and the EC is entrusted with its smooth roll-out. Gujarat finance minister Saurabh Patel said that there was no discussion on names, but it was unanimously agreed that Jaitley should decide the new chairman.
“We are happy with the fact that the Central government has made provision for CST compensation. We will get all our dues in one year. We have unanimously left the decision to the finance minister,” he said. Delhi deputy chief minister and finance minister Manish Sisodia said the chairman should be one “who could devote time, travel extensively and have experience”.
Finance ministers of West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh were among those who attended Friday’s meeting while those from Haryama, Maharashtra, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Karnataka could not attend it.
Revenue secretary Shaktikanta Das said it was not yet decided if another meeting would be convened or chairman would be elected through consultations with states.