GST Bills imperfect, says Chidambaram

The Goods and Services Tax Bills passed by Parliament were “imperfect,” and “no attempt was made to make them less imperfect”, Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said here on Tuesday.

Pointing out that the Rajya Sabha could have improved the Bills, he said: “The opportunity was denied when the government … turned down the demand that the Bills be introduced, debated, and passed as non-Money Bills.”

The Finance Bill, he said, was “widely criticised for including non-financial and non-money matters in flagrant violation of the historically accepted norms and conventions”.

This was done “to avoid a scrutiny of these matters by the Rajya Sabha. It was an assault on the Constitution of India and we hope that, sooner rather than later, courts will pronounce upon the legality of such devices”.

Tax terrorism

Pointing to unacceptable provisions in the Finance Bill, he said the amendment to the Income-Tax Act that the “reason to believe” in the case of search need not be disclosed to any person or authority was an instance of “tax terrorism” while the provisions relating to electoral bonds was intended to make political funding more opaque and more partial”.

Saying that the parliamentary session that will end soon was, “from the point of view of understanding and assessing the state of the economy,” unsatisfactory, Mr. Chidambaram flagged four indicators that “tell the true story” of the economy.

One, between January 2015 and January 2017, the gross bank credit increased by a meagre ₹7,413 crore or 0.29 per cent. Two, in the same period, the IIP increased by a mere 1.1 per cent from 189.2 to 191.3. Three, during 2015-16, the growth of Gross Fixed Capital Formation was 6.11 per cent. During 2016-17, it plummeted to 0.57 per cent. Four, the actual rate of growth of the economy was moderate; and even that growth was jobless growth.

According to the Labour Bureau, only 109,000 jobs were created (in eight job-intensive non-farm sectors) during April-September 2016. This, he said, “must be viewed against the promise to create two crore jobs every year.”