A month from today, finance minister P. Chidambaram will present the Union Budget for 2008-09. The budget document isn’t just a statement of its accounts, but also a charter of the government’s economic policies. Given that, this is the most awaited policy document in India’s economic calendar.
However, behind the document is a long and complex policymaking process. In the first part of a special series on the Budget, Mint presents the various steps involved in creating the budget, the factors and the people involved, as well as highlights from earlier budgets.
“Sir, with these words, I commend the budget to the House.” These words, traditionally said at the end of the finance minister’s (FM’s) budget speech, mark the culmination of perhaps the most concerted planning exercise in the country.
Coming as they do after a six-month effort to balance the country’s books, budget speeches have helped chart the country’s future direction at the macro-level (such as when Manmohan Singh allowed 51% foreign direct investment in certain sectors in 1991) to the micro, when Morarji R. Desai specified the number of matchsticks (50) that a matchbox could contain in order to get excise exemptions in 1962.
The process of making the budget—as much a statement of intent for the forthcoming year as bookkeeping exercise—usually starts around the month of September, triggering an annual policymaking process that is unmatched in scope and size.
(Compiled by Rahul Chandran and Ashish Sharma)
(Illustrations by Malay Karmakar/Mint)
(Graphics by Sandeep Bhatnagar/Mint)