Union Budget 2017: How the budget this year is different from previous ones
Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley will present the Union Budget tomorrow, February 1. The Department of Economic Affairs under the Union Ministry of Finance is tasked with the preparation of the budget. With this, a slew of changes will be seen in this budget. There are three important changes:
- Budget presentation preponed – Union budget was traditionally presented in the last week of February and passed by May. However, in 2017, budget is being tabled on February 1. This will ensure that the budget is passed by April. A budget which is passed well in time helps ministries start spending from April.
- Railway Budget merged – The Railway Budget was tabled separately since 1924 on recommendation of committee led by Sir William Acworth. This was done because Railway revenue was six percent more than general revenue. By 2015-16, railway revenue has shrunk to 11.5 percent of general revenue. From this budget onwards, railways will be part of the general budget. Before 2017, the Centre would give railways an allocation on which railways would pay a dividend. This practice will be discontinued as railways will receive allocations like other ministries. By merging the two budgets, the government will have a better picture of the economy and in turn, help better plan expenditures.
- Plan and non-plan expenditure removed – This budget will also merge planned and non-planned budgets. So, the Union Budget will have only two classifications – Capital and Revenue – as compared to the four earlier. This classification was because of the role that the Planning Commission (PC) played. PC would make allocation for planned expenditure and Finance Ministry would allocate resources for non-plan expenditure. The 12th Five-year plan which is the last five-year plan ends in 2017. This would make classification of plan and no-plan redundant. Thus, this classification has been scrapped.
Interesting facts about Indian Budget
- Halwa Ceremony – A Halwa (sweet dish) ceremony is conducted in the basement of the Finance Ministry in the North Block. This basement houses two printing presses where the budget is printed. Officials associated with this process are locked down in the basement starting from this halwa ceremony until the budget is presented in the Lok Sabha. The officials have access to only one phone in the basement which can only receive calls. There is an intelligence official present all the time. These officials have no communication with their family for days, till the budget is presented. This is done to maintain secrecy of the budget document.
- Blue paper – The budget document is referred to as a blue paper because of the blue colour sheet used to print the document.
- D-Day – The Finance Minister leaves the North Block at 9 am and goes to Rashtrapati Bhavan. The President receives an explanation about the important contents of the budget. After this, the Finance minister meets the Prime Minister and his cabinet in the Parliament. Finally, the budget is tabled before the Lok Sabha.