Arun Jaitley sees ‘good case’ in advancing budget date

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NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said there is a “good case” for advancing presentation of the general Budget to January-end and the government is also examining merging the railway budget with it.

The advancing of the general Budget will help improve public spending and implement tax proposals from the very start of financial year on April 1, he reasoned.

“There is a good case for it, but it involves not only a decision by the government… but also consulting Parliament and the Business Advisory Committee because they fix up various schedules. So, it’s a long process to be gone in through… It is under active consideration at the moment,” he said.

“A decision like this is not taken in a knee-jerk manner and… probably one of the reasons is the timetable itself,” he said at a CNBC TV18 awards function.

Offering the rationale behind the idea of advancing the Budget date, he said a lot more spendings take place in third and fourth quarters.

“You pass the Budget and the Finance Bill some time in May. You start imposing the taxation policies from June, you release the money for various projects. In June, the monsoon sets in and finally, the expenditure starts after the monsoon ends in October. So, you wasted half the year,” Jaitley said.

Bringing forward the date of Budget helps in a more balanced expenditure across the year and public expenditure is a very important part of the whole development story, the finance minister added.

As part of a larger exercise of the Budget overhaul, the government is looking at advancing the dates of presentation by a month to January-end to ensure the whole process is completed before the beginning of the next financial year.

While the Constitution does not mandate any specific date for presentation of the Budget, it is usually presented on the last working day of February and the two-stage process of parliamentary approval takes it to mid-May.

As regards merger of rail budget, Jaitley said: “Railway minister has written for merging railway budget with general Budget. We are seized of the issue.”

The finance ministry has also constituted a 5-member committee to work out the modalities for the merger. The panel has been asked to submit its report by August 31.