Finance Minister rules out rollback of newsprint duty hike
The Finance Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha without much discussions as the Opposition staged a walkout over US President Donald Trump’s statement that PM Narendra Modi sought his mediation in the Kashmir issue with Pakistan.
Replying to the brief debate, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that raising tax on petrol and diesel by ₹2 per litre each will not add any significant burden on prices “inflation is at rock bottom”. Neglecting the pleas from various sections, she said the 10 per cent import duty on newsprint cannot be revoked as it is a measure to boost local industries.
She also hoped that the new government can bring changes to ensure equity in the country. “This government, now that we have come with the larger mandate and for the second time, is aiming to bring in such changes for building in a ‘New India’ wherein there is greater transparency, less of government, more of governance and making sure that re-distribution of resource happens with great equity principle in mind,” she said.
Justifying the tax on super-rich, she said it will boost revenue generation. “So, if you were to raise more taxes, more collection is only going to result in more re-distribution of funds thereby bringing far more equitable development,” she claimed.
She said the proposal to reduce corporate tax to 25 per cent will bring relief to start-ups and affordable housing. “These have been brought in largely to promote ease of living and making sure equity in re-distribution takes place,” she said.
She rejected the demands for rollback of import duty on the newsprint adding that: “Basic Customs Duty on newsprint has been increased to provide a level playing field to domestic manufacturers. There is a capacity in this country to produce newsprint. But unfortunately, they are not able to get buyers because most of the newsprint is imported.”
Many members such as MP Veerendra Kumar, V Vijaisai Reddy and CPI’s Benoy Vishwam had urged the Centre to roll-back the duty.
She said in the last few months, there has been a fall in price overseas from $700 per tonne to $500 per tonne in newsprint.
“So if we are talking of Make in India but allowing indirectly to import, it does not make sense at all. I am sure the members appreciate this point that when we are trying to make Indian industry survive this kind of onslaught, this is inevitable,” she said.
“You cannot allow fall in international price to adversely affect us when we have capacities. If we did not have capacities, I can fully understand. I want members to please appreciate,” the Finance Minister said and added: “I also want to say newsprint attracted basic customs duty even before 2009. We are not the first ones to put it here.”