Condolences continue to pour in, morning the demise of Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who passed away on Saturday - 24 August 2019 at Delhi's AIIMS hospital. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set India a target to become a $ 5 trillion economy, one can remember the man instrumental for setting India on the economic progress speedway - Arun Jaitley. As India's Finance Minister in the first Modi cabinet (2014-2019), Jaitley reshaped the Indian economy with innovative reforms and legislature. He heralded India's rapid rise to be crowned as the world's fastest-growing major economy.
Under the stewardship of Arun Jaitley, the Modi government took a big, bold reform - Demonetisation, on 8 November 2016. With PM Modi's late-night announcement, old banknotes of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 were instantly made invalid. Issuance of new ₹500 and ₹2,000 banknotes were announced by the Prime Minister. This move was aimed at curtailing the usage of black money and reduce the use of illicit and counterfeit cash.
As Finance minister, Jaitley was the man instrumental in the historic passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in both Houses of Parliament in 2017. This moment was not just momentous in terms of tax reform but also one that encompassed the robustness of India’s political consensus for the country’s future. GST which was a tax reform languishing for 17 years, subsuming over a dozen different taxes and cesses necessitated the passing of a Constitutional Amendment. Prior to its passage, Jaitley had to forge inter-party and inter-state consensus at a time when such a thing had appeared unlikely.
With Arun Jaitley at the helm, the Indian Budget was consolidated and streamlined by merging the railway budget with the general Budget in 2017. Since 1924, during the British colonial era, the critical Railway Ministry had a different budget which was presented separately from the Union Budget. But on the recommendations of NITI Aayog, the previous Modi Government decided to merge both the Union Budget and the Railway Budget from the financial year 2017-2018. A separate committee with representatives from the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Railways examined the issues involved in the merger. Heralding a unifying change to India's budget, then-Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the merger of the two Budgets on 1 February 2017.
In 2015, Arun Jaitley tabled the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill which ensured the law to act against errant promoters of companies. He also took many steps to stabilise the economy, which ensured that India was no longer a part of the Fragile Five club. His major reform was setting up a Monetary Policy Committee to set the inflation target of 4%. This ensured growth in India's GDP from 6.4% in FY14 to 6.8% in FY19.
After announcing Demonetisation in 2016, Jaitley doubled down in his war against Black money. He was the brain behind the Income Declaration Scheme (IDS). This ensured that 64,275 people came out and declared black money totalling to Rs 65,250 crore in September 2016. With the IDS, the government had offered a one-time chance to income and asset-holders who had illegally escaped taxes, to own up by paying 45% in tax and penalty.
During his four-year tenure as Finance Minister, India climbed 65 positions in the ease of Business rankings to be placed at the 77th position in 2018. But with bigger ambitions, Jaitley had written in his blog, that the goal was to ensure India should be among the first 50 nations in the ranking. With the meteoric rise into the top 100 rankings, Jaitley felt that his dream was plausible. Prior to the Modi government, India held the 142nd position in the Ease of Business criteria.
Former Union Minister Arun Jaitley had always put the common man's need first. In October 2018, when turmoil gripped the global oil market, fuel prices skyrocketed in India. Sensing the pinch felt by Indians, he announced a cut in per litre price of diesel and petrol. He further also asked state governments to announce a matching reduction.
In 2013, the Indian economy was going through a major dip. Inheriting an economy which had resulted in Non-Performing Assets (NPA) being at the peak, Arun Jaitley had reversed the crisis by initiating the bank consolidation process in 2014. As the Union Finance Minister Jaitley had merged SBI and its five associates with other state-run banks. This bold move helped improve the customer base and bank's operational efficiency, tackling the NPA crisis head-on.