New Delhi: Having decided to advance the budget presentation, the government is keen that it is not presented in the middle of Assembly elections in five states, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Assembly polls are due early next year in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. “In principle, we have decided that we would like to… advance the date (of budget presentation),” he said. The Cabinet on September 21 had in-principle decided to end the colonial-era tradition of presenting the Union budget on last day of February and advance it by about a month to help complete the legislative approval for the annual spending plans and tax proposals before beginning of the new financial year on April 1.
“The reason we wanted to advance the date was that we want the entire budgetary exercise to be over and the Finance Bill to be passed and implemented from April 1 onwards rather than June because then the monsoons set in and, effectively, the expenditures start in October,” he told CNBC TV18. Stating that the government wants expenditure to start in April itself, he said there are five state Assembly elections lined up in 2017. “So, we are just trying to co-ordinate that you do not have to announce the Budget bang in the middle of an election date. So, it should be reasonably before that or after that,” he said.
The finance ministry had previously proposed that the Budget presentation be fixed for February 1and the entire exercise be completed by March 24. It wanted the Budget Session of Parliament to begin before January 25 and go in for a three-week break between February 10 and 15 before reconvening between March 10 and 15 to complete the legislative exercise. But with Assembly elections in five states likely to be held in phases, there is a probability that this budget schedule may clash with the campaigning and the polling.
While tenure of Punjab, Manipur and Goa Assemblies is due to end on March 18, 2017, that of Uttarakhand is till March 26, 2017. Uttar Pradesh Assembly tenure expires on May 27. The Cabinet had last month also decided to scrap the 92-year old practice of having a separate railway budget and merge it with the general budget.
As things stand, the budget approval process happens in two parts spilling over the second or third week of May, hampering early implementation of schemes and spending programmes. To facilitate early presentation of the budget, the finance ministry had proposed that the Budget Session be convened sometime before January 25, a month ahead of the current practice. Consequently, preparation for the Budget would start this month and GDP estimates would be made available on January 7 instead of February 7.