The Union Cabinet may consider on Thursday a proposal of the Finance Ministry for advancing the date for Budget presentation to February 1.
On September 21, the Cabinet had agreed in principle 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 betweenFebruary 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 the 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 programs.
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 onJanuary 7 instead of February 7.