New Delhi: With one year of transparent, graft-free and decisive governance under the NDA, global business confidence in India is on the upswing and the economy poised to go on to a higher growth path, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.
“The very important highlights of the government have been giving a corruption-free administration to the country and strengthening cooperative federalism,” he said at a press conference here ahead of the first anniversary next week of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
“Ministerial discretions have ended, decisions are no more on a personal but on a principled basis, transparently through a market mechanism. Coal, mining, spectrum auctions held, where all controversies were ended,” Jaitley said.
“A year back, government decision-making was so controversial and discretionary that even investors were being prosecuted.”
Referring to the ordinances brought by the Modi government, the minister said there had been criticism by those “uneasy with the pace of governance”.
“There is speed with decisiveness. There is absolute clarity about the direction. The direction is towards growth and development,” Jaitley said.
The finance minister said the Modi government was keen on the passage of the land bill in the monsoon session. The bill is being examined by a joint committee of the two houses.
Asked about the Congress’s opposition to the land bill and some other legislations, he said no party has the right to say that it would not allow the passage of a bill.
Numbers on the floor of the House would decide if a bill was passed or not, Jaitley remarked.
Making it clear that the government did not believe in retrospective taxation, and had also taken action in the matter, the finance minister said past cases will be decided by the judicial process, even as it will await suggestions from an expert panel.
“I have already said old cases need to be resolved. The revenue department didn’t do anything.”
“Only the higher judicial authority can rectify the matter (of old cases),” Jaitley said.
Jaitley in his Budget 2015-16 announced exempting FIIs from paying minimum alternate tax (MAT) on the capital gains earned by them, but soon after the income tax department sent notices to at least 90 foreign portfolio investors (FPIs)
With the uncertainty created by MAT, foreign investors sold around $630 million in Indian shares and bonds on May 6, marking the biggest single-day sales since January 2014.
The government on Wednesday constituted a three-member A.P. Shah Committee that will look into MAT demands on foreign companies.
The finance minister also said his government’s divestment strategy will be balanced.
“Already the target of disinvestment this year is very high. It stands at around Rs.69,000 crore of disinvestment and strategic asset sale. This is even more than the complete disinvestment made by NDA-1,” he said.
“Our decision will be balanced and the process will be to divest or make a strategic sale as the case demands,” he added.
Replying to a question on the retail sector, he said the decision taken by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to allow 51 percent foreign equity in the country’s multi-brand retail trade industry continues even as his party’s views were well-known.
“The views of my party on the policy and the views of my government on the same have been known to everyone for a long time. However, the official position right now is: The earlier policy, which was legislated and implemented by the previous government, still stands,” Jaitley said.