Finance Ministers’ delegation visits OZ for GST experience

 

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Capt.  Abhimanyu with Santram Bajaj

 

 

By Vijay Badhwar

A large delegation from India, comprising of 13 state finance ministers and their representatives, visited Sydney and Canberra on 27-30 September to meet their counterparts in Australia to learn first-hand from their experiences on Goods and Services Tax (GST). The delegation included representatives from Delhi, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala, West Bengal, UP, Himachal Pradesh and Union Territory of Daman and Diu and Nagar Haveli.

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Capt. Abhimanyu with Saba Abdi Zaidi, Mala Mehta, his wife Ekta and Rekah Bhatta

 

The Indian Consul General in Sydney, Sunjay Sudhir, hosted the delegation for a dinner at the Concord Function Centre on September 29 to make them feel at home in the company of representatives from the Indian community settled in Australia. Mr Sudhir made a mention in his speech that making a list of invitees was hard, ‘an occupational hazard’, he said.

Names of famous rivers in India – Gomti, Brahamaputra, Tapti etc, probably avoided the hierarchical numbering of the tables as the delegates were evenly seated at various tables, informally sharing their thoughts and experiences with the community representatives.

The Consul General, in his speech, recognized the delegation as ‘the most eminent after Mr Modi’s visit’ as it included nine Finance Ministers from the various Indian states. The visit was symbolic of free exchange of thoughts between the two countries as Australia had 15 years of experience on GST and Australians were known for their frank views. “The visit also provides an opportunity to show good parts of Australia and nothing better than Sydney with its famous icons,” Mr Sudhir said.

The Consul General provided a brief overview of the thriving Indian community in Australia comprising of professionals, and the student community only second in numbers to students from China. The Indians were the largest recipients of 457 visas to Australia, he said. He, however, agreed that the community representation in politics was a bit slow but was recently being corrected with three councilors and NSW MP Daniel Mookhey.

Haryana Finance Minister Capt. Abhimanyu was accompanied on the Australian visit with his wife Dr Ekta and their nine-year old son. Sitting at ‘Tapti’ table he was relaxed and shared his busy life with charge of 12 portfolios in India. “I get to see my wife only on trips like this,” he said jokingly.

Capt Abhimanyu belongs to one of the most prominent families in Haryana but he was humble as he recounted bike riding with his little son. “I live in a five room house and do not have Z-security,” he said. They liked to do their own shopping but sometimes they are mobbed in the shopping centres with requests for photographs etc, his wife joined in.

In the morning, there was always a large contingent of people, 150-200, at their house. They were there with their requests which his staff summarised for each morning. Between 2-3 pm every day, he saw his constituents for their feedback.

They had a busy schedule during the day having several meetings with the NSW Premier, Mike Baird, Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian and former Secretary to the Treasury, Ken Henry. The delegation was leaving for Canberra the next day for Canberra.

GST has been one of the priorities for the Modi Government and is viewed as one of the economic game-changers in India.  The effort of the Government is to work with State Governments to evolve a consensus. Hopefully, their Australian experience    has been rewarding.

 

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