‘To say we are becoming regressive because we opposed FDI in one sector is not fair judgment’


Surabhi: When can we expect the standing committee's report on GST?

Yashwant Sinha: I have been holding weekly hearings on the GST Bill. Then Mr Chidambaram became Finance Minister. I'll make another general point here that anything Pranab Mukherjee did is now sought to be changed by the present Finance Minister, not merely the retrospective taxation legislation. I suddenly came across media reports that the Finance Minister was discussing GST with the empowered group of state finance ministers. The state finance ministers took a 60-member delegation to Canada and Japan to further study the GST. Mr Chidambaram opened fresh negotiations with them. So we asked the department of revenue whether they stood by the constitutional amendment bill as introduced or were they going to make fundamental changes in it. If the ministry says they are making fundamental changes in the design of the GST or the Bill, so be it. Then we'll respond. The delay is not in the committee at all. Delay is entirely and 100 per cent on the part of the government.

Coomi Kapoor: Why have you not gone to campaign in Gujarat and what are the BJP's prospects there?

Yashwant Sinha: Perhaps I am not considered a good campaigner which is why I was not invited to campaign. The party feedback is that we are going to do tremendously well, better than last time.

Sunil Jain: BJP doesn't want FDI in multi-brand retail. However, the government managed to get it passed. Given that Parliament decided FDI in retail should be allowed, is it fair for BJP to say that when 'we come to power, we will change it'?

Yashwant Sinha: When we asked for it to be discussed, the government said it's an executive decision, why should it need parliamentary approval? But we can't allow executive despotism. What is Parliament there for? Today you decide that this is a executive decision and Parliament has nothing to do with it, tomorrow, you'll say that apart from legislative decisions, we will discuss nothing. The way this entire scheme has been structured has problems. Government says we will leave it to the states to decide FDI, cities with a population of 1 million will be permitted to have these stores. Take these two conditions and take into consideration that many states have said no to FDI in retail. So it is a moth-eaten scheme to begin with. Who says Uttar Pradesh, which is against it, will permit Walmart to source from UP? On a decision where we feel that the country is not with the government, we retain our right to alter that decision. My experience with foreign investors is this: they have a single-point agenda about India at a given point of time. It used to be insurance when I was in the finance ministry, it is multi-brand retail today, it will be something else tomorrow. They set the agenda and say your reformist credentials will be judged on this one issue. I would say that the government of the day should not succumb to that pressure.

... contd.

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