Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the Centre was open to the idea of setting up ‘GST Council’ like body to push reforms in crucial areas of education, land, labour and power. 

Asserting that these are areas that are critical for the country’s economic growth and where “handholding” has not reached the last person, Sitharaman said that Centre was willing to look into the possibility of forming such a body so that it can work with the States and speed up reforms in these areas on the lines of GST Council.

“Yes of course. Why not. The ultimate objective is to reach that rate of growth we need to achieve. We may not be able to reach that rate unless many of the things on the ground simultaneously kick in. Any lethargy anywhere or any lack of support anywhere could hit the larger goal,” Sitharaman said at a post-Budget interaction with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here.

“Let us see how we can design such bodies for these areas. We can see how government departments and States can work together to speed up reforms in these areas…So it is necessary we reach out faster. Those are areas where handholding has not reached the last person — producer or service provider”, Sitharaman said.

She was responding to a suggestion from CII Past President Sunil Kant Munjal as to whether Centre could examine the possibility of setting up ‘GST Council’ like body to work closely with the States in areas such as land, labour, power and education and speed up reforms.

It maybe recalled that GST Council was formed to ensure smooth implementation of GST framework and iron out the policy hurdles between the Centre and the States that came in the way of smooth implementation of the GST system.

GST on cement

On the suggestion from CII Member that GST on cement be reduced from current 28 per cent so as to bring down the cost of construction both for public works and private construction activities like housing, Sitharaman said that the issue will be examined and if required be considered for reference to the GST fitment committee.

Sitharaman called upon industry to be “futuristic” on their engagement with government and take it to a different plane. 

“You should think beyond PLI. We need out-of-box investment drawing ideas, technology drawing ideas and out-of-box working with start-ups. Industry has to closely partner with start-ups. You should unhesitatingly  partner with start-ups to derive benefits,” she told captains of industry.