Opinion

Jaitley: A visionary and astute leader for all time

Chandrajit Banerjee | Updated on August 26, 2019 Published on August 26, 2019

He was a Parliamentarian par excellence, a great friend of industry and, above all, a kind and considerate human being

Rarely has India seen a leader who combined political astuteness, economic sense, and people outreach with such great verve as Arun Jaitley, who left us all too soon. A person who carved a deep imprint in the nation’s fabric, he was known by all as an approachable and empathetic person whose interests cut across a wide variety of areas, be it intellectual discussions, sports, law, economy or food.

A legal luminary, he impressed us all with his immense grasp of very complex matters, which culminated in his deft handling of the Indian economy. When he addressed the CII annual meeting in 2013, he was quick to point out that this was the third consecutive year that he was participating in the valedictory session and he would be happy if he were to speak as a government minister at the inaugural session. Happily, he did that soon and was the exclusive chief guest at the inaugural session of the CII annual meeting every year.

He was always committed to an open, dynamic and vibrant India. Soon after taking over as Finance Minister in 2014, he told us that the reform process in India is the ‘art of the possible’ and that it was not about a few ‘big bang’ ideas. He succeeded in creating a new definition of economic policies that was attuned to what people wanted.

Economy benefits

Under his astute handling of the economy since then, India achieved over 7.3 per cent growth in gross value added and emerged as the fastest growing large economy of the world. More important, a huge degree of macroeconomic stability was imparted due to Jaitley’s continuous endeavour to reduce the fiscal deficit and curb inflation. At each Budget that he presented, he placed the highest emphasis on facilitating private sector investments. From the beginning, Jaitley ensured a series of policy reforms that were long awaited by industry, such as deferring GAAR, expanding FDI limits in many sectors, and so on. He made it a point to interact with business regularly and get our feedback and inputs on key sectors of the economy.

Of course, the single most decisive policy that will always be ascribed to Jaitley is the Goods and Services Tax. It was not easy to steer the empowered committee of State finance ministers towards consensus but with his panache for persuasion, he ensured that GST was introduced in July 2017. Today, just two years after its implementation, the GST system stands as a pillar of the economy, having restructured, simplified, and digitalised India’s indirect tax system. We are indeed indebted to him for this breakthrough reform.

The other key decision with far-reaching implications was the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code which Jaitley introduced in Parliament in 2015 and it was implemented in 2016.

Eruidte, cogent views

On the international front too, Jaitley invariably impressed by his mastery of the various issues being discussed. CII delegations were associated with his travels on multiple occasions and investors turned out in significant numbers to hear his erudite and cogent views on the state of the global and Indian economies, be it in Davos, Tokyo, New York or London. His persuasive powers were again a boon as FDI in the past five years reached record levels. Always a perfect and captivating raconteur, he regaled us often with stories and experiences. His great aptitude was in making complex issues easy to understand for all, getting buy-in from stakeholders when it mattered, including in Parliament where he was a captivating speaker. We often took up the issue of reduction in corporate tax rates with him and he always patiently explained to us why it would take time to cut the rates.

He remained an inspirational and exemplary politician, committed to clean, ethical and transparent politics and to working towards making this a culture for all politicians. A Parliamentarian par excellence, a great mentor and friend of industry and, above all, a kind and considerate human being who reached out to all — that was Arun Jaitley. We in industry salute his amazing personality and celebrate his life full of achievements for the nation, for the economy and for industry.

The writer is Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry

Published on August 26, 2019
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