Former finance minister Arun Jaitley, 66, died on Saturday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi after a prolonged illness.
“It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Shri Arun Jaitley, Hon'ble Member of Parliament & Former Finance Minister, Government of India at 12:07 pm on 24th August, 2019. Shri Arun Jaitley was admitted in AIIMS, New Delhi, on 09/08/2019 and was treated by a multidisciplinary team of senior doctors,” AIIMS said in a press release.
Jaitley decided not to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet in its second term citing health reasons. During his tenure as finance minister in the first term of the Modi-led NDA government, he built a consensus with various state governments to ring in some big-ticket reforms such as the goods and services tax (GST). He was also the main troubleshooter for the Narendra Modi government, given his legal background.
The country’s long-delayed biggest indirect tax reform was finally implemented by Jaitley by giving the GST Council—comprising state finance ministers—the power to set the tax rates. He is also credited with the ongoing clean-up of the banking sector’s non-performing assets and creating a framework for a time-bound solution for bankrupt companies under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). With this single step, he changed the relationship between borrowers and creditors. A recent study by credit rating agency CRISIL says nearly ₹70,000 crore was recovered in FY18.
His other big achievements include setting up of a Monetary Policy Committee to set the inflation target of 4% with an allowance of plus or minus 2% and the further liberalisation of foreign investment rules. In addition, Jaitley took steps to stabilise the economy, which ensured India was no longer a part of the Fragile Five club. Not only did he raise GDP growth from 6.4% in FY14 to 6.8% in FY19, he also brought down consumer price inflation from 9.5% in FY14 to 2.92% in April 2019. For the poor, keeping a lid on inflation was perhaps his biggest achievement.
The consolidation of the banking sector was another major step initiated by Jaitley during his five-year term at North Block. He merged five associated banks of State Bank of India (SBI) and Bharatiya Mahila Bank with SBI, and also merged Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda.
Budget reforms too were a part of his agenda. These included doing away with the artificial boundary of plan and non-plan expenditure and a separate railway budget.
PM Modi, home minister Amit Shah and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, amongst others have expressed their condolences on Twitter.