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NEW DELHI : The Union Budget 2022-23 will primarily focus on two key points, welfare schemes and infrastructure development, two officials aware of the government’s pre-budget discussions said, seeking anonymity.

The emphasis has so far been on direct benefit transfer (DBT), public procurement through the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal, technology-based governance, fund allocation to the North East, and gender and child welfare schemes, they said.

The finance ministry aims to prepare a provisional budget estimate statement before the first advance estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) are released on 7 January. By 21 January, it will finalise a detailed demand for grants, said the two officials. “Pre-budget discussions with ministries and departments are being held at North Block along similar lines. The budget estimates for FY23 will be provisionally finalised after the expenditure secretary completes the discussions," one of the two officials said.

On October 12, the finance ministry had initiated the month-long pre-budget meetings with all stakeholders, including 48 ministries and government institutions .

The ministry expects provisional statements for budget estimates to be submitted on the Union Budget Information System (UBIS) by 17 December and the final statement on demands for grants by 21 January, the second official said. UBIS is a digital database for the Union budget to ensure accuracy during the budget-making exercise.

The budget will continue with transformational reforms by the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which seeks to eliminate poverty, create employment, offer skill development programmes, build rural and urban infrastructure, raise the income of farmers, and address challenges related to the environment and climate change, this official said. Agriculture, rural connectivity, drinking water mission, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, nutrition, health and education, including the midday meal scheme will also be in focus, he said.

All ministries and departments will make efforts to maximise the reach of welfare schemes to beneficiaries through DBT to plug leakage of subsidies, which will result in saving public money, he said.

The Centre is also trying to upgrade the GeM portal to facilitate public procurement and is reviewing its progress as part of the pre-budget exercise, he said. GeM has serviced orders worth 1,52,706 crore from more than 3 million registered sellers and service providers since its launch in August 2017.

“The government will continue to focus on the NorthEast, women and children in next year’s budget. Barring a few, all departments have been asked to allocate 10% of funds for the northeastern regions, including Sikkim," the first official mentioned above said.

Departments exempted from this exercise include atomic energy, space, science and technology, and scientific and industrial research, he said.

“Ministries and departments have been asked to make existing schemes and programmes more gender-inclusive as every arm of the government touches the lives of women. They have been asked to submit a gender budget statement for 2022-23," the second official said.

The budget will focus on the welfare of children as they constitute a major percentage of the population, he said. “Efforts are being made to map educational outlays, and provisions for welfare of the girl child and child protection. The Centre has instructed all ministries and departments to coordinate with the ministry of women and child development for ‘compulsory allocation’ of gender and child budgeting," he said.

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