PRIORITIES: Arun Jaitley
INDIA’S finance minister said on Tuesday (17) he would prioritise growth over cutting the budget deficit, urging critics in his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party and the political opposition to back prime minister Narendra Modi’s economic reform agenda.
Modi is seeking to regain the initiative after a bruising election setback in India’s third most populous state earlier this month triggered a minor rebellion by BJP elders. With parliament due to convene for its winter session on November 26, the opposition has been emboldened by its gains in Bihar.
Arun Jaitley brushed aside the restive senior leaders in his party, saying “people must have a sense of responsibility when they speak.”
He was speaking over breakfast at his hotel in Dubai during a visit to attract investments from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds.
Jaitley said the government was ready to discuss all issues with the opposition to pass a key constitutional amendment that would pave the way for the national goods and services tax (GST) to become law.
If approved, by unifying Asia’s third-largest economy into a single market, the GST would add as much as two percentage points to the economy, some have estimated.
Jaitley said: “Without compromising on the architecture itself, and keeping a general consensus between the states and the centre in mind, I think a discussion is reasonably possible,” signalling flexibility over a proposed state levy that some say would make the tax complex to administer and defeat its original aim of cutting red tape.