New Delhi: The Cabinet is likely to consider this week fixing 1 February as date of presentation of the Union Budget after the Election Commission gave its nod in light of the upcoming assembly elections in five states.
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. So, it consulted the Election Commission, which has concurred with the finance ministry’s view that it is an annual financial statement and can come anytime of the government’s choice, officials said.
The Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet on Wednesday or Thursday to decide on the date for finance minister Arun Jaitley to present the Budget for 2017-18. The Cabinet on 21 September had in-principle decided 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 approval for annual spending plans and tax proposals before beginning of the new financial year on 1 April.
“The reason we wanted to advance the date was that we want the entire budgetary exercise to be over and the Finance Bill to be passed and implemented from April 1 onwards rather than June because then the monsoon sets in and effectively, the expenditures start in October,” Jaitley had stated last week.
Stating that the government wants expenditure to start in April itself, he had said there are five state assembly elections lined up in 2017. “So, we are just trying to co-ordinate that you do not have to announce the Budget bang in the middle of an election date. It should be reasonably before that or after that,” he had said.
The finance ministry had been proposing that the Budget presentation be fixed for 1 February and the entire exercise be completed by 24 March. It wanted the Budget Session of Parliament to begin before 25 January and go in for a three-week break between 10-15 February before reconvening between 10-15 March to complete the legislative exercise.