Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday that India’s economy was doing much better than many of its neighboring and developed countries. “The government has taken a targeted, commodity-based approach to tackle retail inflation, which is hovering around 7 percent,” she told the Rajya Sabha.

Sitharaman was responding to the price increase discussion in the upper house. “Our macroeconomic fundamentals are solid,” he said, adding that countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka had borrowed to weather the economic crisis, while India was getting stronger.

Opposition members had attacked the government for a slowing economy and high inflation that was hurting the poor and middle class. Many members lamented that the government has brought packaged foods under the GST.

In response to their concerns, the minister said that the GST council has members from all states. Regarding the 47th GST meeting, where the tax on essential packaged items was recommended, it was on record that all states accepted the proposal, he said. If there are private talks with the ministers, then it is private, but the records show that no one objected. No one spoke against it,” the finance minister said emphatically.

“The concession for the poor continues as there is no GST on the sale of loose items,” he said.

On the issue of GST on checkbooks, he said that it is applicable only when banks buy or print them from abroad. The minister said that there was no GST in crematoria or morgues. However, if someone wants to open a new crematorium, GST will be levied on them. As the members had talked about GST on hospital beds, he said that there is no tax on ICU beds, but only in case the room rent exceeds Rs 5,000 per day.

He gave figures on how the GST has streamlined taxes which were charged at a much higher rate on various items.

The finance minister also gave figures on the performance of various government schemes. “We have deposited money into the accounts of 12.5 million rupees of farmers who have received 6,000 rupees a year in their accounts. “We take care of them. More than 9.6 million rupees receive tap water. We are not throwing money at the poor, but providing facilities.”

On the subject of higher LPG prices and the poor not going to refill after the first free cylinder, he said: “What was intended for the poor is reaching them. We are giving a subsidy of Rs 200 for each of the 12 cylinders. It may not be enough. But we have to see how many we pay.”

Sitharaman had previously quoted former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan on the economy in the Lok Sabha. In response, opposition members in the Rajya Sabha said the government should have listened to other messages from him. Sitharaman responded by saying that he only wants his views on the economy, not the politicians.

Earlier, during question time at Rajya Sabha, members raised questions about the declining value of the rupee against the US dollar and the tax charged by the central government. On the performance of the rupee, the finance minister said that he has withstood the impact of the US Fed’s decision much better than other peer currencies.

Responding to another member who raised concerns about fraudulent loan applications, Sitharaman assured that various ministries, including Finance, IT, Corporate Affairs and Home Affairs, are working together to tackle the problem, the PRS Legislative think tank reported in its daily report.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya provided an update on steps taken to contain monkeypox cases. He said the government has issued guidelines for state governments, made 15 laboratories available for testing and has written to the Dubai government to test the details of passengers traveling to India.

In the Lok Sabha, the Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill was discussed and passed. The proposed law increases the number of species protected by law and seeks the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Read More: Indian economy much better than others: Sitharaman