Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed hope to push through the much-awaited tax reform in the country during the coming days as the Parliament's budget session kicks off on Thursday (9 March).
Speaking to reporters ahead of the commencement of house proceedings, Modi said he was expecting a breakthrough in introducing the goods and service tax (GST) bill. The government is looking at implement the landmark tax scheme – under which a uniform indirect tax will be levied on goods and services across the country – on 1 July.
GST is considered one of India's biggest tax reforms since independence and the new system is expected convert the entire country into a single market by removing state taxes. This is one of the prime minister's pet policies as he aims to iron out issues in the existing tax system, which is reportedly fragmented and convoluted.
"We hope that there will be a breakthrough on the GST because all states have positively cooperated. All political parties have also extended cooperation in a positive way. We are meeting after a break and the budget proposals will be discussed in details," Modi said.
All eyes are on the budget session as the ruling government needs the cooperation from the opposition, which has been stonewalling Modi administration's efforts in the Rajya Sabha (upper house). Although the government holds a majority in the Lok Sabha (lower house), it lacks the necessary numbers in the Rajya Sabha for the bill to pass.
Urging his political opponents, senior parliamentarian and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said: "I want all political parties to focus on the budget. They should indulge in a healthy debate because that will benefit the nation. I urge the political parties to maintain peace in discussing issues. There should be good debate. The government is ready to discuss issues related to the budget. The government is ready to answer any question."