Dubai, Nov 17 (Reuters): Finance minister Arun Jaitley challenged the Opposition to back the goods & services tax (GST) Bill, pledging also to put investments before budget savings to drive growth in Asia’s No.3 economy.
Jaitley, in an interview with Reuters, also sought to dismiss comments by senior leaders in Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party who rebelled after a heavy election defeat this month in Bihar.
”People must have a sense of responsibility when they speak,” he said over breakfast at his hotel in Dubai, where he was on a visit to attract investments from West Asian sovereign wealth funds that would help drive growth.
The setback in Bihar has emboldened his opponents in Parliament who have used their control of the upper house to delay his economic reform agenda.
Jaitley said the government would prefer to use buoyant tax receipts to fund extra infrastructure spending than to borrow less for the current fiscal year.
Achieving “high growth and depleting poverty” are top of the agenda of the government for the coming years, he said.
Modi, elected in May 2014 with the strongest mandate in three decades, has set his ambitions to lead India for two five-year terms.
”I would stick to my fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent this year and the priority will be to spend whatever resources the government has within the fiscal deficit target,” said Jaitley.
The government is ready to discuss all issues with the Opposition to pass a key amendment in the forthcoming winter session of Parliament that would pave the way for the GST, Jaitley also said.
It is not, however, willing to abandon the basic objectives of the tax, which would for the first time turn India into a common market and by some estimates add as much as 2 percentage points to gross domestic product.
”Without compromising on the architecture itself, and keeping a general consensus between the states and the centre in mind, I think a discussion is reasonably possible,” he said.