Jaitley promises more income tax relief if economy improves

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Saturday promised more concessions in income tax if the economy improves next year.

“We do not want a high taxation regime. It was because of the high taxation regime of the previous government that inflation rose,” Jaitley said, replying to questions on the budget on India TV’s talk show, Aap Ki Adalat.

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“Had the centre had more money in its coffers, I would have given more (relief). May be, if the government has more money tomorrow, I will raise (the concessions)”, he added.

Jaitley claimed that his was the first budget since independence in which income tax exemptions were given across all three taxpayers’ categories.

He strongly defended the government’s policy to allow 49 percent FDI (foreign direct investment) in defence, saying that he would prefer companies headed by Indians with 49 percent FDI manufacturing defence equipment in India, rather than opting for importing defence equipment.

“As far as I know, it was Soniaji (Congress President) who had been opposing 49 pc FDI in defence and was preferring imports of defence equipment”, said Jaitley.

Jaitley, who also holds the defence portfolio, pointed out that 26 percent FDI in defence was permitted during the previous NDA (National Democratic Alliance) regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“We are the largest importer of defence equipment in the world. For the last one and a half months, most of the foreign leaders who came to meet us were pitching for sale of their defence equipment,” Jaitley said.

“It would be wiser if we have companies in India with 51 percent Indian equity, getting foreign technology and investment and manufacturing defence equipment here”, he added.

About some Congress leaders objecting to the Rs.200 crore allocated in the budget for setting up Sardar Patel’s statue in Gujarat, he said: “If the Gujarat government is erecting the world’s tallest statue in Narmada river, the Centre must contribute, and I would like the state governments to contribute too.”

“I do not know why the Congress leaders are objecting. Maybe because Patel did not belong to a particular family. After Independence, certain families were glorified, but those who contributed more to the nation were less glorified.”

On Congress leaders questioning the lack of any reference to black money in his budget speech, Jaitley pointed out that the budget was an accounting statement and there was no need to mention the issue of black money.

“Let me remind you, the Modi government in its first cabinet meeting decided to set up the Special Investigation Team under Supreme Court to probe black money stashed in offshore accounts. I directed my ministry to hand over all details related to offshore black money to the SIT, except in cases where there are international commitments (not to reveal names).

“When the Swiss authorities indicated that they were ready to give details of Indians having accounts in Swiss banks, our ministry immediately sent them a letter seeking details. Our government does not have any sympathy towards people having black money”, said Jaitley.

On former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s remarks that the budget speech was only a reiteration of the policies and targets of the UPA government, Jaitley said: “I would then be very happy if the Congress supports our budget. But I know they won’t support. The UPA government had left the economy in a mess.”

Jaitley expressed optimism about introducing the Goods and Service Tax (GST) this year.

“We are hardly 50 days in office, and there are unpaid bills of states pending for the last 5 years. I would rather pay off those bills first. When the revised grants will come, I will have to see from where I can pay those bills. At least, I am hopeful about the GST. The two states that are raising the issue of unpaid bills are Gujarat and Punjab, both NDA governments.

“After we pay off their bills, we will then introduce the GST. This will increase our GDP, reduce tax evasion and also reduce undue harassment to industry,” Jaitley added.