Economy

Jaitley vows to push land purchase reform

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during the opening session of the India Economic Summit in New Delhi. File photo

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during the opening session of the India Economic Summit in New Delhi. File photo  

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India will push ahead with reform to a land purchase law blamed by business for slowing industrial projects, even if there is resistance to loosening the rules, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday.

Mr. Jaitley said changes to the law were needed to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of building 100 new "smart" cities across India.

"Some changes will be necessary, we will first attempt to reach a consensus, if that's not possible we will go ahead and take the decision," Jaitley said, speaking at a seminar in New Delhi.

The law was passed last year with support of BJP when it was in opposition, and seeks to set fair compensation for loss of livelihood for farmers who sell their land to industrial or infrastructure projects.

But its complex procedures have made it very hard for large-scale industrial projects to acquire the land they need.

The BJP would need parliamentary approval to change the law, and might struggle in the upper house where it does not have a majority.

Mr. Jaitley also said he hoped to begin a delayed programme to sell stakes in government owned companies "in the next couple of days". He said the government was aiming to bring down its equity in public sector banks to about 52 per cent.

Hopeful of passage of Insurance Bill in Winter session

Mr. Jaitley expressed hope that the long-pending Insurance Laws Amendment Bill, which seeks to raise the FDI cap in the sector to 49 per cent, will get the Parliament approval in the upcoming Winter Session.

“We have opened up investments in various sectors. I do hope this (Winter) session I will be able to pass the Insurance Bill,” he said at the India Global Forum meeting here.

The month-long Winter Session of Parliament is scheduled to commence from November 24.

FDI in the sector is capped at 26 per cent at present.

The much-delayed Insurance Bill has been referred to the Select Committee of Parliament. The Bill, which comes with a rider that the management control would rest in the hands of Indian promoter, has been pending since 2008 in the Rajya Sabha.

The Minister said India is pursuing the policy of allowing foreign investment with sectoral cap keeping in mind the requirements of the economy and the appetite of the Indian political system.

“When we were in the government last time we opened up the sector. At that time, the political system had an appetite for a limited opening. We are now opening up the sector a little more,” he added.

Bowing to opposition pressure, the government had in August agreed to refer the Insurance Bill to the 15-member Select Committee. The committee is expected to submit its report by the third week of November.

The reform, according to experts, could increase the flow of foreign investment to the tune of Rs 25,000 crore into the private insurance companies. The move would help insurance firms to get the much-needed capital from overseas partners.

There are about two dozen private sector insurance firms, both in life and non-life segment in the country.

Govt in final stages of discussions with states on GST

Hinting that amendments to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) may be introduced in the ensuing Winter session of Parliament, Mr. Jaitley said the government was in the final stages of talks with states on the issue.

“I am in the last stage of my discussion with the states on the eve of Parliament session before introducing the amendments to the GST law in Parliament,” Jaitley said at the India Global Forum meeting here.

The month-long Winter Session of Parliament is scheduled to commence on November 24.

Seeking support from the opposition parties, especially Congress, in passing the key legislation, Mr. Jaitley said they should realise that the “merits of some of these actions have positive attitude towards them“.

“I do hope that my friends in the Opposition parties, particularly the principle Opposition, after a wasted opportunity when they were in government, spend a more fruitful tenure when they are in opposition,” Mr. Jaitley said.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime aims at subsuming most of the indirect taxes at the central as well as state level. The UPA government in 2011 introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha to pave the way for introduction of GST.

The GST rollout has missed several deadlines because of lack of consensus among states over certain crucial issues on the new tax regime.

Pending since 2006, the discussion on GST Bill is stuck at a crucial stage where states have proposed to keep products such as petroleum, tobacco and alcohol out of GST ambit and had demanded the exemption list be included in the Constitutional Amendment Bill.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 5:49:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/union-finance-minister-arun-jaitley-speaks-at-india-global-forum-meeting-in-new-delhi/article6580127.ece

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