GST top priority, 'ambitious' sell-off plan soon: FM Arun Jaitley

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 31 2014, 15:04pm hrs
Arun JaitleyUnion Finance Minister Arun Jaitley along with Finance Secretary Arvind Mayaram and Revenue Secretary, Shaktikanta Das addressing a press conference at National Media Centre. (PTI)
The implementation of the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) is on the top of the governments agenda, finance minister Arun Jaitley said here on Saturday.

Listing out the reforms underway, Jaitley said that the government plans to roll out its ambitious disinvestment plan soon, while it is in discussion with all the stakeholders to form a consensus on the GST for early implementation.

I am individually discussing with finance ministers and chief ministers of some states which have raised issues with regard to GST and an early passage of the Constitutional Amendment Bill is on top of the governments agenda, he told reporters here.

As to whether the government will agree to the demands of keeping petroleum and alcohol out of the ambit of the new indirect tax regime, Jaitley said, The Empowered Committee has, with regards to certain items, said that they be kept out. (But) too many items cant be kept out. We are in discussions with some of the states. Recently I met West Bengal finance minister and Gujarat finance minister and I will meet few other states. I will be discussing the issues with them.

On the issue of the compensation for phasing out the Central Sales Tax (CST), the finance minister said that the Centre is willing to pay the compensation, which had been a bone of contention between the states and the previous government.

On the Insurance Bill, which proposes raising the FDI cap from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, Jaitley exuded confidence that it would be passed in the next session of Parliament.

I am reasonably confident any political party which have mooted the idea of this Bill in the past, cannot have any serious reservation against it I do see a positive attitude among some of the principal opposition parties, he said, adding that the select committee will start work on the Bill soon.

The much-delayed Insurance Bill was referred to the select committee after the Opposition objected to some of the changes introduced in it. The bill has been pending since 2008 in the Rajya Sabha. We took a firm decision on insurance I am hopeful of its passage in the next session. A significant amount of investment is just waiting in that sector to come in, Jaitley said.

On the rationalisation of subsidies, he said that he will discuss the issue with members of expenditure management commission, set up following the Budget announcement, that if it can submit early recommendations on subsidy rationalisation, the work could be started this year itself.

The government is also looking at revisiting the land acquisition law while it is reviewing the general anti-avoidance rules pertaining to taxation.