Asserting that economic progress cannot be a partisan issue, government on Thursday night sought cooperation of the opposition to ensure that India achieves double-digit growth as it contended that "obstructionism" could only provide temporary "sadistic thrill".
Finance minister Arun Jaitley rejected the charge of being pro-corporate and underlined that the country needs high growth for creation of jobs, addressing social issues and development of infrastructure. He was replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha on Appropriation Bill 2015-16, which was later approved by a voice vote, marking completion of the first phase of the budgetary exercise.
"India's growth rate is not NDA/UPA issue," Jaitley said, adding the country has a historic opportunity for growth and pleaded with the opposition not to "obstruct or delay" the reform process in "one way or the other". "We need larger consensus on growth roadmap... Obstructionism can have a sadistic thrill, but that can only be temporary," he said.
Advocating the need for pushing reforms, he said, "Unless the economy grows at a faster pace... India's normal (growth) is 8-9% and we are targeting a double-digit growth. Indian normal cannot be 4-5% growth where you can barely pay salary and undertake essential expenditure." His appeal came at a time when some key reform legislations like Land Acquisition Bill, Coal Bill and Mines and Minerals Bill are stuck in the House because of stiff opposition by some parties.
"Obstructionism can be a temporary tactic. At times, it can be a strategy but it cannot be a long term ideology. Therefore some of the reforms which the UPA started, which we are taking a shade forward, should be cooperated with, rather than being obstructed in one manner or the other or even delayed," the finance minister said. India's growth is likely to be 7.4% in the current fiscal and improve to 8-8.5% in the 2015-16.
"Unless we increase revenue, (unless) our tax buoyancy goes up because of growth rate, you won't be able to spend on development and hence there will be no growth and you won't have money to service the poor," Jaitley said.
"Therefore, our effort has to be that growth has to go up and additional resources which come out of growth have to be used to service the poor of this country.
This is how poverty alleviation schemes work," he added. Asserting that the government was keen to improve ease of doing business in India, he said, "We need competitive interest rate, we need competitive tax rate, we need stability in taxation rate, we need a system free from corruption." Rejecting the charge that the government is pro-rich, he said taxes for the corporates have to be competitive globally so that investors can look at India for pumping in funds.
In this context, he said his move to bring down corporate tax from 30% to 25% over next four years was aimed at alligning them with other countries. He mentioned that the rate was 23% globally, 21.9 in ASEAN and 19.6 in Europe.
Rejecting suggestions by some opposition parties for hiking corporate tax, Jaitley questioned which investor would come to India in that scenario. He said he had decided to reduce corporate tax, taking cue from the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) prepared by former finance minister P Chidambaram.
Taking a dig at Chidambaram for criticising the budget, he said, "my predecessor has been kinder to me as compared to his own predecessor", apparently referring to Pranab Mukherjee.
Referring to the new legislation on black money, he said, "We are going to make sure that there is no scope for misuse, but at the same time there is a deterrent for those who stock money abroad." The government is likely to table the new legislation on black money on Friday in the Lok Sabha.