Parliamentary standing committee on finance shouldn’t be blamed for the delay in proceeding with the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Its chairperson, Yashwant Sinha said its report had been held up due to the delay by the government in replying to its questions.
“I wanted to have meetings every week and give the report during the monsoon session. The last meeting was on July 27 in which we had asked questions, but so far, we have not received the replies from the finance ministry,” Sinha said.
“The ministry had said it would require consent from the minister to reply to some of the questions. The next meeting happened on August 6, but we had not received the replies from the finance ministry and now, it is August 16, yet we have not received any reply. The committee will not take the blame for delay,” he added.
Because of the delay by the Union government, it is unlikely that the committee would be able to give the report in this session of Parliament and there is no clarity on when the report will be completed, Sinha said. “GST is not a party issue. Many state governments are not comfortable with GST. At first, the finance minister was changed and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was handling the ministry, and now we have a new finance minister. There is also a new revenue secretary,” Sinha added.
The former finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, had told some of the chief ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states that implementation of GST could be difficult, as it required constitutional amendments. But the prime minister has started discussions with chief ministers, asking them to work towards building a consensus on implementation of GST.
The prime minister’s desire for an early implementation of GST came to light on April 9 when he met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Sushil Modi to discuss the power situation in the state.
Soon after the meeting, Singh called Modi for an exclusive discussion on GST and asked him to try and build a consensus on the issue, so that GST could be rolled out at the earliest. Singh also told Modi to take personal interest in building a consensus on GST and urged him to speak to all opposition-ruled states, specifically the BJP-led state governments.