Con­gress vows to sim­plify GST as poll nears

The Straits Times - - WORLD -

the com­pany who an­swered Baiji’s reg­is­tered phone num­ber. The mine is a small-scale op­er­a­tion, he said, de­clin­ing to give his name.

Deadly min­ing ac­ci­dents are com- mon in China, where the in­dus­try has a poor safety record de­spite ef­forts to im­prove coal pro­duc­tion con­di­tions and crack down on il­le­gal mines. NEW DELHI • In­dia’s main op­po­si­tion Con­gress party will sim­plify the goods and ser­vices tax (GST) and take “ra­tio­nal eco­nomic de­ci­sions” to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment if voted back to power in a gen­eral elec­tion due by May, its leader, Mr Rahul Gandhi, said last Satur­day.

Launched in 2017, the GST was ini­tially hailed as Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s big­gest eco­nomic re­form as it re­placed more than a dozen fed­eral and state levies and uni­fied the econ­omy.

But its chaotic im­ple­men­ta­tion and com­plex­i­ties, months after a shock ban by Mr Modi on high­value bank cur­rency aimed at un­earthing un­taxed wealth, badly hurt small busi­nesses and led to mil­lions of job losses in the cash­driven econ­omy, pre­sent­ing the big­gest chal­lenge to Mr Modi’s re-elec­tion chances.

Mr Gandhi, scion of In­dia’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, said dur­ing a visit to Dubai that for­eign in­vest­ment was at a multi-year low in In­dia due to the “ill-ad­vised and badly thought out eco­nomic moves”, such as the cur­rency ban and a “poorly de­signed GST”.

“We will take some ra­tio­nal eco­nomic de­ci­sions,” he told a press con­fer­ence, which was broad­cast live on Twit­ter.

“We will re­struc­ture the GST and em­brace in­vest­ments from the Mid­dle East and other parts of the world. We are the party of (In­dia’s eco­nomic) lib­er­al­i­sa­tion, the party that gave the fastest eco­nomic growth in the first decade of the cen­tury and we will do that again.”

He said his main pri­or­i­ties would be to cre­ate jobs, sim­plify the GST and re­build con­fi­dence in in­sti­tu­tions such as the Re­serve Bank of In­dia.

The Con­gress press con­fer­ence was or­gan­ised by the In­dian Over­seas Con­gress, which is present in about 35 coun­tries, as Mr Gandhi tries to reach out to rich In­di­ans liv­ing abroad for funds and so­cial me­dia sup­port for the party that has dom­i­nated the coun­try’s pol­i­tics for decades, be­fore be­ing nearly dec­i­mated in the last gen­eral elec­tion in 2014.

But back home, Mr Gandhi re­ceived a jolt when Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) and the Sa­ma­jwadi Party (SP) an­nounced an elec­tion tie-up with­out Con­gress in Ut­tar Pradesh state, which sends the high­est num­ber of law­mak­ers to the lower house of Par­lia­ment.

“The BSP and SP have made a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion,” he said. “It’s on us on how to strengthen the Con­gress party in Ut­tar Pradesh and we will fight with our full ca­pac­ity. Whether we do or their al­liance does, the BJP is not win­ning there.”

Mr Modi said at the Delhi con­ven­tion that the op­po­si­tion was work­ing on a “des­per­ate al­liance”, while the BJP would give a“strong gov­ern­ment”.

The Hindu na­tion­al­ist BJP lost power in three key states re­cently, forc­ing the gov­ern­ment to an­nounce a flurry of mea­sures to woo small busi­nesses and the less well-off since then.

In De­cem­ber last year, seven min­ers were killed and three oth­ers in­jured in an ac­ci­dent at a coal mine in south-west China.

PHOTO: XIN­HUA NEWS AGENCY

Res­cuers at the coal mine owned by Baiji Min­ing in Shaanxi, China, yes­ter­day. A to­tal of 87 peo­ple were work­ing un­der­ground when the roof of the mine col­lapsed on Satur­day and 66 were safely evac­u­ated. Res­cuers found two re­main­ing min­ers dead yes­ter­day, bring­ing the death toll to 21.

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