Create professional body to assist GST Council: Jairam Ramesh

New Delhi, Calling the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council a “unique experiment”, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said the council needs to be supported by a body of professionals that may serve as its secretariat.

“The GST Council created through a constitutional amendment is a unique experiment wherein the states are ceding some ground while the Centre is also ceding some ground,” Ramesh said during a discussion on the GST Bills in the Rajya Sabha.

Ramesh also wondered aloud if there was sufficient time to roll out the GST regime in July.

He said that to work efficiently, the GST Council requires a “full-time, independent, professional expertise”, and that it can neither depend on the Finance Ministry nor the state governments.

“My earnest plea to the Finance Minister is to set up an independent, professional body that will act as the secretariat for the GST Council. This body should have Indian Revenue Service officers, economists, lawyers and chartered accountants,” Ramesh said.

He suggested the new body should have “an arm’s length relationship” with the Centre as well as the states.

“Just as you have created a body for managing the information technology backbone of the GST, I think you should consider a similar organisation for providing the economic, financial and legal underpinning for implementation GST Bill we are passing,” he said.

“Otherwise, it (GST Council) will become an extension of the central government or of few finance ministers who understand law and finance,” he added.

Ramesh pointed out that the GST idea was not new and was doing the rounds since the late 1980s, and that successive central governments and Finance Ministers gradually prepared the ground for its implementation now.

“Arun Jaitley succeeded as he did not have to deal with an uncooperative Standing Committee that took 28 months to submit its report and an uncooperative Chief Minister,” he said.

Narendra Modi had opposed the idea of the GST law during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.