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Secrecy in budget making should be abolished: Yashwant Sinha

Former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday pitched for reforming the budget making exercise, saying secrecy surrounding it should be done away with in the "era of transparency" and that any changes in excise and customs duties should come into effect only after Parliament passes them.

PTI| Updated: Mar 15, 2016, 22:15 PM IST

New Delhi: Former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday pitched for reforming the budget making exercise, saying secrecy surrounding it should be done away with in the "era of transparency" and that any changes in excise and customs duties should come into effect only after Parliament passes them.

The BJP veteran, who had presented five budgets as Finance Minister, made the comments while addressing the city MLAs as part of an orientation programme on the upcoming Delhi budget, following a request by Assembly speaker Ram Niwas Goel.

"Secrecy surrounding budget making should be abolished. There is no need for the secrecy," he said.

As per current norms, around 10-12 days ahead of presentation of the budget, officials and support staff involved in the budget making are required to stay in the Finance Ministry. They remain cut off from their families till the presentation of the budget.

They are not even allowed to contact their near and dear ones through phone or any other form of communication, like email. Only very senior officials in the Finance Ministry are permitted to go home.

The Ministry is also made out of bounds for the journalists around two months ahead of the budget presentation.

"Officials of Finance Ministry are locked..They are disconnected from outer world so that the budget proposals are not leaked," he said, adding such precautions are taken as people may take benefit and gave example that traders may hike price of certain products if they know about imminent customs duty hike.

Sinha said instead of maintaining secrecy in budget making, government should table the proposals before Parliament and they should be implemented once they are passed.

"If there are any changes in taxes in the budget (custom, excise), they are implemented from the midnight of the same day. But, if changes are later rolled back, government, which has already collected taxes for 5-6 weeks, doesn't return the amount," he said.

The secrecy in budget making should be abolished, he said, adding that there is a need for reforms in the whole budget making and presentation process.

Sinha was finance minister from 1990-1991 in the government of then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. He held the portfolio from March 1998 to July 2002 in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.