The Union Minister of Finance, Defence and Corporate Affairs Shri Arun Jaitley said that the Government would focus on two important areas including building infrastructure on war footing and substantial expenditure on development of rural India. The Finance Minister said that India is having the largest infrastructure creating programme in the world which include constructing 10,000 kms of road every year or 30 km a day, connecting every village with a regular road by 2019, to ensure that every village is electrified by 2018 and addition of 40-50 Regional Airports besides modernizing the Railway System among others. The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley was addressing the 23rd Conference of Auditors’ General of Commonwealth Countries and British Overseas Territories in Delhi today. The Conference which is organized every three years, is being hosted in India for the First time. The Conference is held in Delhi from March 21-23, 2017 and is attended by 74 delegates from 36 participating countries.
The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley highlighted the various schemes and programmes launched by the present Government for the development of rural areas, including construction of roads, electrification of villages, cleanliness campaign by providing every rural household with a toilet system, implementing scheme ‘Housing for all’ in rural areas by 2022 and high expenditure on rural irrigation, animal husbandry and dairy farming among others.
The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley said that the major challenges before the Government is uncertainty in international oil prices, slow pace of growth in the global economy, addressing the issue of increased private sector investment and tackling the problem of Non Performing Assets (NPAs) among others. The Finance Minister said that India will continue to be the fastest growing economy in the world and will continue to achieve the annual growth rate of 7-8 per cent and can further increase this growth rate provided the global economy also registers higher recovery.
The Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley said that micro and macro-economic indicators of the Indian economy are very strong and inflation, fiscal deficit and current account deficit etc. are very much in control. The Finance Minister also said that the major indirect tax reform in the history of the country since independence i.e. Goods and Services Tax Act is likely to be rolled-out from first of July this year which will simplify the most complicated indirect tax system in the country by subsuming various Central and State indirect taxes and introducing the concept of ‘one tax one nation’. The Finance Minister said that the GST will be a game changer and will help in curbing tax evasion, bringing transparency and efficiency in tax administration, reducing the prices of various items by avoiding tax on tax and ensuring seamless transfer of goods from one region to another among others.
The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley also said that as far as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is concerned, India is most preferred destination in the world today as it has opened its economy for FDI in various sectors especially in the last 2-3 years. The Finance Minister also touched upon the issue of demonetization stating that by withdrawing the legal tender character of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes with effect from 8th November, 2016, the anonymity attached with the cash is over and informal sector has to a large extent integrated with the formal sector and thereby making the Indian economy more cleaner, transparent and efficient. He said that cash was incentivising crime, corruption, tax evasion and black money among others. Shri Jaitley said that demonetizing on the one hand helped in tackling all these problems while on the other hand, led to increased digitization of transactions and reducing the overall impact of shadow economy among others.
This Conference will provide a platform and opportunity to the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) of the Commonwealth Countries to meet and share their experiences and discuss the key issues facing them in area of public audit. The theme of the Conference is “Fostering Partnerships for Capacity Development in Public Audit.”