As India mourns the loss of Former Union Minister and BJP veteran leader Arun Jaitley on Saturday, August 24, 2019, his passing brings an end to a remarkable political career, peppered with thunderous speeches, which pushed breakthrough social and economic reform. Among the many achievements of Jaitley will be his historic passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in both Houses of Parliament - a moment which was seen 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.
"At the midnight hour, we will be launching India's biggest and most ambitious tax and economic reforms in history. The GST may be a destination tax. But for India, it will start a new journey where India will awake to limitless possibilities. The old India was economically fragmented, the new India will create one tax, one market for one nation," said the Finance Minister, introducing the GST Bill in Parliament.
"It will be an India where the Centre and states will work harmoniously towards the common goal of shared prosperity. The unanimity of the Constitutional amendment and the consensus of GST Council highlights that India can rise above narrow politics for the nation's interest. With the GST neither the state nor the Centre loses its sovereignty. In contrast, they will pool their sovereignty on decisions on indirect taxes," added FM Jaitley.
"In this constitutional amendment, we have taken 29 states and 2 Union territories with legislatures in consideration. With this in mind, we have implemented this reform at a time when the world is facing slow growth, isolationism and the lack of structural reforms. For this feat, all political parties, state finance ministers and dedicated ministers of Centre and states who contributed in this must be appreciated," Jaitley said. The entire assembly broke into applause at the bipartisanship witnessed.
"Honourable President, you are witness that GST's journey started 15 years ago with the NDA-1 government. In 2003, the proposal was introduced and in 2006. The then-UPA government said that they would attempt to implement this by 2010. In 2011, when the President as the then-finance Minister (Pranab Mukherjee) had laid the stepping stone in his Budget speech with a Constitutional amendment, states were able to ideate a uniform format to include their taxes in the GST. Post which the Parliament Committee had given their inputs which had led to the formation of the GST Council. In this council, 1/3 vote will be of the Centre, 2/3 vote will be from the states but the decision will be taken only with a 3/4 vote margin. This forced the Centre and State governments to work in co-operation for a constitutional amendment," Jaitley said.
"Another suggestion of the Standing Committee was that a council of Finance Ministers Council was formed which had a unique feature enacted by every government. This feature was that a Finance Minister from a state governed by an opposing political party be the head of that committee. Prof. Asim Dasgupta - the first head of the Council taught me about GST. This helped in passing the Constitutional amendment by a majority in both Parliamentary houses which led to the formation of GST Council. Then the GST Council prepared the laws for the Centre and States which was passed unanimously, separately by the Centre and the State Assemblies, which has led to it becoming a reality today," said Arun Jaitley.
"GST Council has met 18 times and has passed every decision unanimously. It has written 24 regulations and decided on the bifurcation on State and Centre's purview on 1211 commodities. The driving principle of each decision was that common man should not be burdened. It also believed that the revenue should be neutral and that the economic tax slabs should not burden any weaker section," said the Leader of the Rajya Sabha.
"GST will end the 17 state taxes, 23 cesses and there will be one tax, one return. People will be dealing with only one software interface on a monthly basis. There will be no tax on the tax and will enable a uniform service flow throughout the country. This is help increase tax filing, reduce inflation, increase GDP which will help in aiding the poor people. I wish to thank all politicians and GST Council members who worked tirelessly to meet the 1 July 2017 deadline," he concluded.
As Goods and Services Tax regime entered its third year, former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley looked back on the restructuring of the indirect tax system in the country. In his latest blog published on 1 July 2019 he has talked about the Pre-GST regime and said that GST is undoubtedly consumer and assessee friendly. He added that the assessee base in the last two years has increased by 84%. He also responded to the misconceived notion about the GST.
GST is a long-heralded tax reform that had the effect of subsuming over a dozen different taxes and cesses. This truly unified India as a market. The rollout of the GST also necessitated the passing of a Constitutional Amendment. Prior to this, Jaitley had to forge inter-party and inter-state consensus at a time when such a thing had appeared unlikely.