Monday December 18, 2017
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GST Bill: Time for Congress to question its means and ends

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By Gaurav Sharma

Photo credit: youtube.com
Photo credit: youtube.com

The current ruckus created in the Parliament over the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax Bill(GST), has resulted in a stalemate between the NDA government and opposition parties threatening a whitewash monsoon session this year.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley blamed the impasse on the “obstinacy of two Congress leaders”, alluding to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Jaitley alleged that the Congress’ demands for resignations of Sushma Swaraj, and two other ministers, was a pretext for stalling the GST bill. However, the Congress refused to backtrack from its stance and continued to shout its motto, “no resignation, no House”.

Meanwhile, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav and other MP’s from the Samajwadi Party(SP) attacked Jaitley for his inability to push through the bill.

Why has the bill created such a mindless, bitter standoff so as to stall the functioning of Parliament, brazenly splurging precious taxpayer money in a sea of inactivity? Is it mere coincidence that the passage of the bill in the Upper House gratuitously timed itself with serious charges being leveled against top politicos?

This requires an understanding of the Goods & Services Tax.

GST is a tax initiative which aims to bring all indirect taxes under a single tax structure, whereby all goods and services are charged under a national sales tax. It is the backbone of the indirect tax reforms that the Indian government has been aiming to bring forth since 2010, when the then finance minister P Chidambaram proposed it in his budget speech.

GST is part of a constitutional amendment bill for which means it has to be passed by both the Houses of the Parliament.

Under the proposed harmonised taxation system, only the Central government would be able to levy an integrated GST on the interstate transfer of goods and services and imports. Rates of tax, supply principles, special state provisions and levy period for additional tax would be determined (recommended) by a GST Council.

How will it help the economy?

Although the provisions of the bill are not strictly conforming to an ideal GST regime, the tax would bring a sea change in the way business is conducted in the country and the way economy revolves.

It will iron out the kinks in the current indirect tax structure, broaden the tax base (thereby filling the government coffers), increase compliance and prevent the gory practice of double taxation.

Economic distortions which further make life difficult for businesses running at a pan-India level, will be wiped clean, providing much-needed ease-of-doing-business for corporates. Manufacturing activity would start rising and tax compliance would become simpler.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley boisterously described the GST as the biggest tax reform in India and went to say that it would add a substantial 2 per cent to the growth rate of the country.

Issues pertaining GST

The GST has its fair share of  contentious issues. First of all, the provisions of the bill declare an additional tax of 1 per cent (for 2 years) on inter-state trade or commerce by the Centre, thereby precluding the visualized aim of taxing value addition and not trade.

Furthermore, the exclusion of alcohol and petroleum from the ambit of the GST Bill puts question marks on the resolve of the government to ushering forth a strong taxation regime.

Some states have voiced concerns over potential revenue losses in light of the change in tax infrastructure. Still, in the long run, one can expect prices to fall and delivery of goods and services to become more efficient, bringing much cheer to the inflation saddled shoulders of the consumer.

Indian products, both in domestic and international, can be expected to become more competitive due to the fall in price. A surge in exports would cut India’s current account deficit (CAD) significantly, which can have a cascading effect on the strength of the rupee.

It would not be too far-fetched to imagine a vast improvement in India’s standing in the global markets, if the GST is implemented swiftly, without any red-tapism.

Present Status

GST has not only caused a scuffle between politicians but has agitated the corporate groups. Most of the corporate honchos blame the Opposition for delaying the implementation of GST.

More than 61 per cent of the respondents of an ET poll felt that the delay would be a setback, a pushback to the economic recovery. Majority felt a complete economic recovery would be difficult to accomplish by April 2016, the deadline set for the passage of the bill.

If the opposition comprising of 68 Congress, 10 Left, 11 AIADMK MPs continue to battle tooth and nail against the bill, their credibility as pro-reform political parties will be questioned.

While the Rajya Sabha requires the sanction of at least two-thirds majority to pass the bill, the prospective opposition alliance would fail the bill by seven votes in the house of 245 members.

Considering the fact that barely 2 days remain for the end of the monsoon session, it is highly unlikely that the government would be able to introduce the bill. The opposition in its political zealousness has resorted to a desperate measure of log jamming the Parliament.

Protesting against a pro-market, pro-economy legislation, shows the degraded levels to which our politicians have stooped to, without giving a hoot to the slick democratic machinery of the country.

Our politicians swear by the Constitution, it is time they start abiding by it.

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Gujarat Elections: The Fight to the Finish between Congress and BJP

The counting of votes for the Gujarat elections will begin on December 18 at 8.00 AM

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The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Women on their way to the polling booths in Gujarat on December 9, VOA News

 

  • The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress into a close contest over the seats.
  • The exit polls predict a victory for BJP.
  • The counting of votes will begin at 8.00 A.M. on Monday, December 18.

The Gujarat elections, which were carried out in two phases on December 9 and December 14, will finally come to its culmination on Monday, December 18, as the counting of votes will commence from 8.00 A.M. The Gujarat polls, over which seasoned BJP politicians such as Narendra Modi and Amit Shah  have locked horns with the newly appointed president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, have been subjected to numerous speculations and predictions, ever since the two political parties have launched themselves into relentless campaigning for the various constituencies.

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Rahul Gandhi kissing his mother after being elected as the President of Congress on December 16, 2017, VOA News

Congress vs. BJP: Who will Win the Gujarat Elections

The campaign for the Gujarat assembly elections has been a vehement one for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has extensively referred to the growth index and other statistical details while enumerating the virtues of the BJP government. His developmental policies, such as the Ujjwala Yojana through which free LPG gas facilities were provide to households below the Poverty Line, have made him immensely popular among the women of Gujarat. Modi’s appeal as the ‘son of the soil’ has earned him support in the urban and commercial hubs of Gujarat, in spite of the brewing discontent over demonetisation and the imposition of GST. The BJP has also succeeded in securing the support of the tribal people of Gujarat, who were previously considered as a stronghold of the Congress.
However, with the trio of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani, Rahul Gandhi seems to have infused young blood into the Gujarat elections, and has thereby attracted a significant number of young voters. Hardik Patel, with his political acumen has become a potential threat for the BJP, as multiple scandalous tapes of him as well as his aides have not decreased his popularity. In North, Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch, people seem to be disappointed with the BJP government, since the much-applauded ‘Gujarat Model’ has failed to solve basic issues in their lives, such as shortage of water.

 

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the voters at Kalol, in the outskirts of Ahmedabad on December 8, 2017, VOA News

Gujarat Elections: The Exit Polls

The Gujarat Polls of 2017 have often been hailed as one of the closest competitions faced by the BJP government during its 22 year long tenure as speculations are rife regarding who will win the Gujarat elections. However, in spite of the unyielding campaign by the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, the speculations hint towards another victory for the BJP in the state. An aggregate of nine exit polls in Gujarat show that the BJP is expected to secure 162 seats, while 65 seats may be secured by the Congress.

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Rahul Gandhi Elected as President of Congress Amidst Celebration of Followers

The 47 years old has been Vice President for a while during the tenure of his mother Sonia Gandhi

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Rahul Gandhi becomes president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi steps down
Rahul Gandhi steps in as President of Congress, Wikipedia

Rahul Gandhi was elected to the position of the President of Congress after his mother Sonia Gandhi stepped down in his favour on December 16, at a ceremony in the AICC Headquarters in Delhi. In an event attended by sister Priyanka Gandhi, brother in-law Robert Vadra and veteran politicians such as ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi became the sixth member of his family to have ascended to the position of the President of Congress, after a significantly long period of apprenticeship as the Vice-President.

 Rahul Gandhi becomes the president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi Steps Down
Rahul Gandhi steps in as President of Congress after a speech by his mother Sonia Gandhi. Wikipedia

Sonia Gandhi Steps down

In an emotional farewell speech, Sonia Gandhi thanked all the party members who had supported her in the initial days of her 19 year-long tenure as the President of Congress, as she nostalgically recounted how she had never intended to join politics, but was thrust into it by the tragic circumstances. “Meeting this challenge was not the achievement of one individual but the continued efforts of all of you,” said she, addressing the crowd for the last time as the President of Congress. Sonia Gandhi, whose election to the post was preceded by the assassination of her mother in-law Indira Gandhi as well as her husband Rajiv Gandhi, expressed her confidence and pride in the spirit and resolve of her son, stating that his training as Vice President has made him “Stronger and unafraid”. Sonia Gandhi’s speech, however, was constantly interrupted by the noise of firecrackers, which were being burst by some members of the party, who were celebrating the much-awaited election of Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi steps in as President of Congress after a speech by his mother Sonia Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi with the Prime Minister of Greece at New Delhi, Wikipedia

Rahul Gandhi becomes President of Congress

The 47 years old Rahul Gandhi, who until recently was engaged in an active campaign for the upcoming state elections at Gujarat, was awarded the Certificate of Election by Mullapally Ramachandran, the President of the Central Election Authority of Congress. “Politics belongs to the people, it is their greatest weapon in dismantling the structures that oppress, silence and disempower them,” stated the newly elected President of Congress, calling himself an ‘idealist’, who looks forward to better days. Rahul Gandhi’s fiery speech was met with much applause and appreciation, especially from the younger members of the party.
In 2013, the ascension of Rahul Gandhi as the Vice President of Congress was followed by a loss in nine state elections, and a victory in three. The election of the president comes at an interesting point of time, with the upcoming elections in 16 states, as well as the national election in 2019.

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Food processing will be a main industry in future: Jaitley

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Food
Food processing will be a main industry in future: Jaitley

New Delhi: The entire Indian agriculture value chain is set to change drastically and food processing is going to be one of the main industries of the country in the future, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Friday.

“The farm to kitchen chain is going to change in India, like elsewhere, with increased agricultural production, better storage facilities, more food processing and changing consumer food preference,” Jaitley said at the inaugural session of the World Food India 2017 here.

 “Food processing is going to be one of the principal industries of India in future, and an entrepreneur in 2017 should think of the industry from the perspective of where it will be in 2040, 2050,” he said.

In terms of market size, the Indian food market was worth $193 billion in 2016 and is expected to cross $540 billion in 2020, officials said here. The sector has been growing at the rate of 12 per cent annually.

“There is a silent revolution ongoing in India. There is an expanding middle class and below that there is a growing aspirational class, which is building up reasonable purchasing power,” the Finance Minister said, noting that this provided an enormous potential market for food products in the country.

About the potential, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that only about 10 per cent of agricultural produce is processed in the country, leading to a lot of wastage.

The industry enjoys many fiscal incentives, including preferential credit under priority sector lending, she said.

“There is 100 per cent FDI (foreign direct investment) allowed into the sector through the automatic route and we have seen inflows increase 40 per cent over the last year,” she said.

“The proposal for a Food Processing Bank is also under active consideration.”

In the presence of delegates from many countries, the event was inaugurated earlier by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who pointed out that India is the biggest producer of milk in the world and the second in rice, wheat, fish and vegetable output.(IANS)