NEW DELHI — The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, completes one year in office on May 26. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today held a press conference to make sure achievements of the government are highlighted, at a time when economic experts and businesses are saying that Modi could have done more with the huge majority he got in last year's general elections.
Modi has been the most visible during his frequent foreign visits. Jaitley said they have made an impact. "In Maldives and Nepal when there was trouble, India left its mark through its diplomacy and foreign policy. India has occupied a pre-eminent place in the global arena."
He also referred to Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, who had gone on vacation when the last parliament session was on. "Going for vacation for 55 days is one kind of a foreign trip and state visits representing the country are completely different," said Jaitley.
It is yet to be seen how effective those visits and bilateral agreements have been. But the government had promised important and bold reforms and there has been little movement on that front. Jaitley put the focus on the next session of parliament.
"We are in the process of creating history by bringing about the most important indirect tax reform, the GST. Our priorities in the next session of Parliament will be the passage of GST and Land bills," he said. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in the last session but the government could not convince opposition politicians to lend enough support for it in the Rajya Sabha. It has since been referred to a panel where the NDA is in a minority.
Jaitley said opposing legislation has its cost. "When we obstruct the passage of laws, we must realise it is the journey to 10 percent growth we are obstructing."
Retrospective taxation related to Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) has led to foreign investors dumping stocks in the benchmark sensex and reports that they might file a case in the Supreme Court. Jaitley said the government is working to resolve the issue. "We are working in the direction of resolving legacy issue plaguing taxation," he said when asked about MAT. "High taxation rates are never investor or economy friendly."
Jaitley also sought to counter the perception that the government was friendlier with corporates than with farmers. "In the coming years, government will increase spending in irrigation and rural infrastructure. The new insurance schemes launched by the Government have reached 7.5 crore people in a few weeks. India is an unpensioned society, only 11 % have pension. The government has tried to increase this number." He repeated his goal for the MUDRA bank, set up for loans to small entrepreneurs. "MUDRA Bank will enable to 5.7 crore small entrepreneurs to get finance," he said.
Jaitley, who also heads the information and broadcasting ministry, said that misuse of the Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) has stopped after Modi came to power. "The misuse of investigative agencies, is now an event of the past."
Jaitley was asked about the current tussle of power between the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. "This is not a political issue but a constitutional issue," he said, adding that the home ministry circular was to make matters clear, "so that there is no confusion as to who exercise which power," he said.