Budget 2016: Jaitley to meet economists on Saturday

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In an unprecedented move, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has called a meeting with economists just two days before he presents the Budget 2016 on Monday.

Besides Jaitley, the Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha and other senior officials of the Finance Ministry will be present at the meeting with economists on Saturday morning.

Officials confirmed the 90-minute meeting but refused to say what the agenda was.

The move is unusual as no finance minister before has called a meeting with economists two days before the Budget.

Also because, by Saturday, the Budget 2016 would have been finalised, barring some last-minute changes.

Industry officials said the last-minute meeting may be to get a grip on some quick-fix measures to package a bitter pill for the economy. It is being widely speculated that the government may not stick to the fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2016-17.

With economic activity not picking up at the desired pace and tax revenue staying sluggish, the government had last year redrawn the fiscal consolidation roadmap by stretching the time to reach the fiscal deficit figure of 3% of GDP from two years to three years.

There is a little doubt about the government meeting current year fiscal deficit target of 3.9%, but achieving 3.5% in 2016-17 and 3% for 2017-18 is widely seen as uncertain.

The Saturday meeting may be aimed at sensitising economists about some of the macroeconomic indicators as well as the fiscal health of the government, besides seeking some inputs on expenditure cuts and fiscal manoeuvring.

Jaitley had met economists as a part of pre-Budget meetings in January. During that round, he had also met industry captains, bankers, farmers and trade union representatives.

The meeting with economists will come a day after the Economic Survey for 2015-16, which presents the state of the economy is presented in Parliament on Friday.

On Saturday, Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian is also scheduled to meet media to explain finer points of the Economic Survey. The Chief Economic Advisor is the author of the survey.