India Set For Stormy Winter Session Amid Cash Crunch, GST Introduction
Opposition plans to raise demonetization at earliest opportunity
India’s Parliament is set to reconvene Wednesday for its winter session, which looks set to be a stormy one, as the opposition aims to berate the government over the country’s cash crunch.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise announcement last week that the country was phasing out 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, worth about $7 and $15 respectively, with immediate effect, and replacing them with new 500- and 2,000-rupee notes.
The move was aimed at cutting corruption and counterfeiting, however thousands of people are still queuing up at banks across India to withdraw cash and exchange their old currency for new notes.
The government has created a panic situation. We are not opposed to the fight against black money [unaccounted wealth], but the present methodology has led to hardship for the poor,” said Tom Vadakkan, a spokesman for the opposition Congress Party.
Mr. Vadakkan said the Congress wants to debate the demonetization move in Parliament as soon as the session begins. Though his party is unlikely to be able to do anything to reverse the decision, they will likely make a lot of noise.
Parliament is also expected to witness heated discussions over the alleged suicide of an ex-soldier who was reportedly deprived of benefits under a revised government pension program.
The government has lined up 19 legislative bills for debate and passage in the winter session that ends on Dec. 16.
It will push for the passage of three draft laws that are crucial for the rollout of a nationwide goods and services tax from April next year.
An expert panel of Indian lawmakers has already agreed on rates for the new indirect-tax regime. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has asked the panel to meet next week to finalize other issues so that the government can pass the three bills, which would allow the tax to be introduced.
“We are hopeful of sorting out all the issues related to GST in the next meeting, and get the legislative bills passed in the winter session itself,” a senior finance ministry official, who didn’t want to be identified, said.
The government also wants to pass the Surrogacy Regulation Bill that seeks to completely prohibit commercial surrogacy in India, where fertility clinics have become a big business.
Below are some of the key bills the government wants to push through.
1–The Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2016 sets out the indirect taxes levied inside states.
2–The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2016 sets out the levies that apply across states.
3–The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation for Loss of Revenue) Bill 2016 outlines the compensation to states will receive for any losses incurred from GST.
4– The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 seeks to ban commercial surrogacy in India and regulate surrogacy practices.
5–The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment Bill 2013, which makes giving bribe an offence.
6–The Factories (Amendment) Bill 2016 seeks to enhance the limit of overtime work hours.
-source: Wall Street Journal http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2016/11/15/india-set-for-stormy-winter-session-amid-cash-crunch-gst-introduction/