Union Cabinet may consider advancing Budget to February 1 today
The Union Cabinet is likely to take a decision on Thursday on Finance Ministry's proposal of advancing the date for Budget presentation to February 1.
New Delhi: The Union Cabinet is likely to take a decision on Thursday on Finance Ministry's proposal of advancing the date for Budget presentation to February 1.
Sources said the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet on Thursday to decide on the date on which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present the budget for 2017-18.
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 process for approval of annual spending plans and tax proposals before beginning of the new financial year on April 1.
Having decided to advance the budget presentation by a month, the government took the line that it should not be presented in the middle of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
Since then, the Finance Ministry held informal consultation with the Election Commission, which concurred with the ministry's view that the budget is an annual financial statement and can come anytime the government decides and will not be in violation of model code of conduct.
The Finance Ministry has been proposing that the Budget presentation date be fixed for February 1 and 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 10-15 before reconvening between March 10-15 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 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's 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, merging it with the general budget.
As things stand, the budget approval process happens in two parts, spilling over to the second or third week of May, hampering early implementation of schemes and spending programmes.
To facilitate its early presentation, 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 Budget would start this month and GDP estimates would be made available on January 7 instead of February 7.