Congress will ensure overhaul of GST when in Power at Centre: Manpreet


CHANDIGARH: While attacking the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre for “poor implementation” of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal also advised leaders of BJP-ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to visit Golden Temple once again “to seek atonement for putting Punjab in acute financial mess”.

He was speaking in the legislative assembly, on Friday, during the debate to enact ‘The Punjab Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018’ for transition of existing tax payers to the GST regime. “We will do total overhaul of the GST once the Congress government comes at the Centre. The way Modi ji is implementing the GST, it is not worth implementation,” said Manpreet.

He said there are around 225 countries and out of those 161 countries follow GST regime. “But there is total arrogance in the GST council. In the last one year, there had been around 1,000 changes in the GST which we had been flagging since beginning but they continued to persist,” the minister added.

Replying to a question from former finance minister and SAD leader Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Manpreet said: “You had recently made a visit to Darbar Sahib to seek atonement for the mistakes that might have been committed knowingly or unknowingly during your rule. You should visit once again for destroying Punjab’s economy and finances.”

The minister told the House that just a day before the 2017 assembly elections, the SAD-BJP government had signed on the Rs 31,000 crore cash credit limit term loan, unnecessarily burdening the state exchequer. Manpreet said he was surprised that Dhindsa had the audacity to say in the assembly that state Congress government’s tax compliance or collection was in doldrums.

He also said that the draft of GST was also signed by Dhindsa and the Congress government was just there to ensure compliance. “I am saying it with full responsibility that 40% of the Punjab tax revenue has been subsumed in the GST and that is because of Dhindsa sahib’s signature,” he added. On Dhindsa’s statement that airplanes would get the input tax credit but buses would not, Manpreet took a potshot at the Akalis stating, “Had this question been asked by Sukhbir Singh Badal (SAD president, whose companies own fleets of buses), I would have replied.”

He assured the House that Punjab would again stand on its feet and would become revenue surplus state.

On the issue of taxes on petroleum much more than the neighbouring states, the finance minister said that the Punjab government had raised this issue many a times that there should be identical petroleum tax across the country.

Replying to AAP MLA Aman Arora’s question on implementation of e-way bill, the minister informed the House that there was tax evasion on some items, like building material, steel and edible oil. “Hence leaving these 3-4 evasion-prone items, the state has put the exemption limit on other items up to Rs 1 lakh.”

He also said that the state government had cleared VAT refund amounting to Rs 475 crore last month. “The state only has to refund Rs 185 crore VAT to Ludhiana-based industry. Otherwise we have cleared all,” added Manpreet.

However, Dhindsa raised the issue that the finance minister had not given him clarifications on some important issues including delay in release of dearness allowance installments to government employees and on the implementation of the pay commission. Responding to Manpreet’s comments, Dhindsa said, “Had we not signed the GST, Punjab’s financial condition would have been very bad. Only GST has saved them.”

He added that there is a 40% shortfall in state government’s own tax revenue against the budget estimates. He asked Manpreet to explain as to what financial stability has the Congress government ensured in Punjab.

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