On the eve of demonetisation anniversary, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley termed the much-debated economic move an 'ethical drive and moral step'. He reminded the former Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who today targeted the government on demonetisation and GST, that the 'loot' happened under his UPA regime in 2G, CWG and coal block allocation scams.
While the Congress observed November 8 as 'black day' on the first anniversary of the note ban that invalidated 86 per cent of the currency in the system the BJP, in a counter mover,celebrated it as 'anti-black money day' to highlight its 'successes'.
Jaitley said the demonetisation decision had led to a larger formal economy, cleaner economy and a bigger tax base. The party and the government strongly stood by the 'historic and watershed moment' for the economy.
Hitting back at the Congress, which had fielded former Dr. Singh in high-stakes Gujarat to take on the BJP, Jaitley said his party had a different perspective on the issue of ethics. 'Their (Congress) priority is to serve the family (Gandhis), while our (BJP) priority is to serve the nation,' Jaitley said in a scathing rebuttal to Dr. Singh’s strong attack on the government over demonetisation, saying it had harmed India’s image. Jaitley asked him to compare pre-2014 and post-2014 reputation of Indian economy to judge for himself.
'You were being considered an economy impacted by policy paralysis... You were off the global radar. Today, there isn’t an international agency which does not eulogise the kind and quality of structural reforms India has taken,' he said. There was an ethical and moral rationale behind the note ban decision, he said, hitting out at Dr. Singh over his loot comments.
The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi-led BJP government led transformation of economy with 'structural reforms' to 'shake up' the status quo. Excessive cash transaction was leading to tax evasion and honest tax payers suffered 'double whammy' as they ended up paying taxes for evaders too, he said.
Adding that demonetisation was not a solution to all problems, he said the move changed the agenda, ushering in less-cash economy, increasing numbers of tax assesses and squeezing terror funding.
Data mining led to identification of 1.8 million bank account-holders with disproportionate income, he said. 'The Congress has a history of not taking one big step against black money. We are more than satisfied with the direction we have gone (in),' he said. However, he parried a question about Dr. Raghuram Rajan’s reported stand against demonetisation when he was the RBI Governor, saying he would choose not to answer it as he did not find it necessary to disclose all the facts he as a Finance Minister was privy to.
A combative Dr. Manmohan Singh had sought to demolish the performance of the government, saying Mr. Modi had neither fulfilled any promise made before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections nor recorded any remarkable achievement in his three-and-a-half years at the helm.
Addressing the trading community and media separately in Gujarat Dr.Singh said Modi wouldn’t have committed blunders like 'tax terrorism through 'badly designed and hastily implemented' Goods and Services Tax (GST) had he studied Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s teachings properly.
Dr. Singh hit out at the Modi government on multiple fronts, including demonetisation, state of economy, inflation, agricultural growth and bullet train project, saying he seriously doubted if the government would be able to achieve its economic growth targets during its existing term or even by 2022.
He blamed the slowdown in private investments on 'hastily implemented' GST and the 'organised loot and legalised plunder' initiated by the 'historic blunder measure' of demonetisation. He called it an 'ill thought-out action' and said nowhere in the world had any democracy taken such a coercive step to ruin its own economy. He said demonetisation and GST together had dealt a twin blow to the country’s economy and job market, rendering lakhs of youths unemployed.
'The GST has sown deep-rooted fear of tax terrorism among the business community and at a time when the economy has slowed down affecting investments, tax terrorism has eroded the confidence to invest,' he pointed out.
The former PM said the GST as implemented by the NDA government was a lot different than what was conceived by the UPA government. 'The then well-designed GST was opposed by Modi-ji as the Chief Minister, but what the present government has implemented not only contains high rates but also loopholes.' But the Modi government has refused to listen to any of Congress’ suggestions, he said.
Calling the bullet train project an 'exercise in vanity, Dr. Singh said it would neither help the people of Gujarat nor the country. He said the UPA government had partnered with Japan to strengthen the existing broad gauge railway network by introducing high-speed trains 'which is the need of the country' and not a bullet train only on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai sector at such a high cost.