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Modi govt needs to take steps on economic reforms, GST: Biswal


Washington:  The Modi government has kindled huge interest in the US private sector on India but needs to take steps on economic reforms, including the key GST bill, as creating a more transparent and predictable tax structure is critical, a top Obama Administration official has said.

“(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has taken a big stand on the global stage on essentially talking about India and its economic journey,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said, noting that after he came to power there has been a huge amount of interest in the US private sector.

“I think, the Prime Minister is probably the greatest brand ambassador for India in attracting that kind of economic interest,” Biswal, Obama Administration’s point person for South and Central Asia, told PTI.

The world is looking for Indian economy to be a driver and engine of growth, not just for India but for the region and the world, she said, noting that the Modi government take quite a number of measures in this regard.

“Whether it is enough or not, it is not for me to judge. I think, the judge of that is in the flow of investments coming in,” Biswal added.

Responding to a question on the steps the Modi government now needs to take on economic reforms, she said creating a more transparent and predictable tax structure is critical.

“I understand that the GST (Goods and Services Tax) bill is a priority for the government and we hope that there will be a movement in that, because that would be a very important step in that direction,” she said.

The government has set April 1, 2016 as the roll out date for the indirect tax reform GST, which will subsume excise and service tax and other local levies. The key indirect taxation reform GST Bill has been hanging fire since since 2006-07.

“Certainly, I think, you have seen an uptick in FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and FII (Foreign Institutional Investor), but it is not sufficient to fuel the ambitious agenda that the Indian government has laid out for itself,” she said.

“So I think, the question that is to be asked that what further step can really create the investor confidence to unleash the flow that would fuel the growth in manufacturing, in job creation, and the economic growth that India seeks,” said Biswal, the first Indian-American to be heading this top diplomatic position in State Department.

“I think the Prime Minister has recognised that he would like to improve India’s standing and track record in terms of global ranking in enabling environment, ease of doing business and certainly there are places where that is easier and places where there is still quite a bit of obstacles, barriers to entry for companies that are seeking to invest.

“So those are all challenges that need to be tackled,” she said ahead of the inaugural India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue to be held here on September 21 and 22.

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