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Sweet Beginning - Halwa Served - Budget Interim

JANUARY 31, 2024

By Vijay Kumar

BUDGET is big news, but the budget tomorrow is only an interim one. A full Budget or an Interim Budget, the "Halwa" ceremony cannot be dispensed with. Such a tradition has been in place and is relished by senior officials in the North Block when their 'laboured' proposals finally go for printing. Since printing also means a stage beyond all the layers of scrutiny and corrections, such a moment is enjoyed by the Budget Team by sharing halwa.

In his Interim Budget speech for 2014-15, on February 17, 2014, Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram said,

As I prepared to write this speech, I found that whether it is a regular Budget for the full year or an interim Budget, some things remain the same. For example, our goals are the same and the global context is the same.

And though he didn't mention it, the halwa ceremony is the same, and that alas, was his last budget speech!

In the recent CII Global Economic Policy Forum on 7th December 2023, Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman stated:

I am not going to play spoilsport, but it is a matter of truth that the February budget will just be a vote on account because we will be in an election mode. So, the budget that the government presents will just be to meet the expenditure of the government till a new government comes to play.

We are in an election year...the budget that the government presents will just be for expenditures of the government till a new government comes. "No spectacular announcements will come at that time; we will have to wait till the full budget comes in July.

Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs in its Office Memorandum No.F.19 (1)/2023 Leg.I Dated: 15.11.2023 stated:

ln an election year, or otherwise, when instead of a regular General Budget, an interim Budget seeking Vote on Account is presented before the two Houses of Parliament, Ministries/Departments may send prescribed number of copies of the Statement containing in brief the activities of the Ministry/Department for the preceding calendar year, to the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha Secretariat immediately after presentation of the Interim Budget.

An Interim Budget, in all likelihood, would be presented before the Lok Sabha during the next session (which may be convened during the month of January, 2024).

As per the Constitution:

112. Annual financial statement.- (1) The President shall in respect of every financial year cause to be laid before both the Houses of Parliament a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Government of India for that year, in this Part referred to as the "annual financial statement''.

(2) The estimates of expenditure embodied in the annual financial statement shall show separately-

(a) the sums required to meet expenditure described by this Constitution as expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India; and

(b) the sums required to meet other expenditure proposed to be made from the Consolidated Fund of India and shall distinguish expenditure on revenue account from other expenditure.

This Annual Financial Statement is also known as the Budget.

As per Para 7.11 of the Manual of Parliamentary Procedures in the Government of India

According to Article 112(1) of the Constitution, an annual financial statement (also known as budget), giving the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Central Government in respect of each financial year, is to be laid on the Table of the two Houses before the commencement of that year.

By convention, the last working day of February was fixed for the presentation of the budget. Since 2017, the Presentation of Union Budget has been advanced to 1st of February.

The Budget documents presented to the Parliament, besides the Finance Minister's Budget Speech consist of:

A. Annual Financial Statement (AFS)

B. Demands for Grants (DG)

C. Finance Bill

D. Fiscal Policy Statements mandated under FRBM Act:

i. Macro-Economic Framework Statement

ii. Medium-Term Fiscal Policy cum Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement

E. Expenditure Budget

F. Receipt Budget

G. Expenditure Profile

H. Budget at a Glance

I. Memorandum Explaining the Provisions in the Finance Bill

J. Output Outcome Monitoring Framework

K. Key Features of Budget

L. Implementation of Budget Announcements of the previous year

A. Annual Financial Statement (AFS), the document as provided under Article 112, shows the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Government of India for the next financial year along with estimates for the current year as also actuals for the previous year. The receipts and disbursements are shown under three parts in which Government Accounts are kept namely.,

(i) The Consolidated Fund of India,

(ii) The Contingency Fund of India and

(iii) The Public Account of India.

(i) The Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) (Article 266 of the Constitution) All revenues received by the Government, loans raised by it, and also receipts from recoveries of loans granted by it, together form the Consolidated Fund of India. All expenditure of the Government is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India and no amount can be drawn from the Consolidated Fund without due authorization from the Parliament.

(ii) Contingency Fund: Article 267 of the Constitution authorizes the existence of a Contingency Fund of India which is an imprest placed at the disposal of the President of India to facilitate meeting of urgent unforeseen expenditure by the Government pending authorization from the Parliament. Parliamentary approval for such unforeseen expenditure is obtained, ex-post-facto, and an equivalent amount is drawn from the Consolidated Fund to recoup the Contingency Fund after such ex-post-facto approval. The corpus of the Contingency Fund as authorized by Parliament currently stands at Rs. 30,000 crore.

(iii) Public Account: Moneys held by Government in trust are kept in the Public Account. Provident Funds, Small Savings collections, receipts of Government set apart for expenditure on specific objects such as road development, primary education, other Reserve/Special Funds etc., are examples of moneys kept in the Public Account. Public Account funds that do not belong to the Government and have to be finally paid back to the persons and authorities, who deposited them, do not require Parliamentary authorization for withdrawals. The approval of the Parliament is obtained when amounts are withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund and kept in the Public Account for expenditure on specific objects (The actual expenditure on the specific object is again submitted for vote of the Parliament for withdrawal from the Public Account for incurring expenditure on the specific objects).

(iv) Revenue Budget consists of the revenue receipts of the Government (Tax revenues and Non-Tax revenues) and the revenue expenditure. Tax revenues comprise proceeds of taxes and other duties levied by the Union. The estimates of revenue receipts shown in the Annual Financial Statement consider the effect of various taxation proposals made in the Finance Bill. Non-tax receipts of the Government mainly consist of interest and dividend on investments made by the Government, fees and other receipts for services rendered by the Government. Revenue expenditure is for the normal running of Government Departments and for rendering of various services, making interest payments on debt, meeting subsidies, grants in aid, etc. Broadly, the expenditure which does not result in creation of assets for the Government of India, is treated as revenue expenditure. All grants given to the State Governments/Union Territories and other parties are also treated as revenue expenditure even though some of the grants may be used for creation of capital assets.

(v) Capital receipts and capital payments together constitute the Capital Budget. The capital receipts are loans raised by the Government from the public (these are termed as market loans), borrowings by the Government through the sale of Treasury Bills, the loans received from foreign Governments and bodies, disinvestment receipts and recoveries of loans from State and Union Territory Governments and other parties. Capital payments consist of capital expenditure on acquisition of assets like land, buildings, machinery, equipment, as also investments in shares, etc., and loans and advances granted by the Central Government to the State and the Union Territory Governments, Government companies, Corporations and other parties.

B. Demands for Grants: Article 113 of the Constitution mandates that the estimates of expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India included in the Annual Financial Statement and required to be voted by the Lok Sabha, be submitted in the form of Demands for Grants. The Demands for Grants are presented to the Lok Sabha along with the Annual Financial Statement.

C. Finance Bill: At the time of presentation of the Annual Financial Statement, Finance Bill is also presented in fulfilment of the requirement of Article 110 (1)(a) of the Constitution, detailing the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of taxes proposed in the Budget. It also contains other provisions relating to Budget that could be classified as Money Bill. A Finance Bill is a Money Bill as defined in Article 110 of the Constitution.

Apart from the shocks and surprises revealed and concealed in the Budget, the Budget processes involve some elaborate ceremonies apart from the halwa one. The FM is traditionally required to pose for photographs pretending to give last minute touches to her budget speech. The Budget speech itself is prepared by a large team of officers and usually the Finance Minister goes through and approves every word - she has to do it sitting in her office; even she is not supposed to take the Budget speech home to read and correct.

On the Budget Day, there is another photo op outside the North Block with the Finance Minister and her budget 'bahi khata'. After that, the FM takes the budget to the President of India. After appraising the President about the Budget, the FM reaches the Parliament and there is a cabinet meeting inside Parliament, where the FM explains the highlights of her budget to the cabinet ministers; after that the Prime Minister accompanies the FM to the Lok Sabha.

The FM says, "I rise to present the budget ……

There shall be no discussion of the Budget on the day on which it is presented to the House.

The very first Budget of Independent India presented on November 26, 1947 by Finance Minister R.K. Shanmukham Chetty was also a sort of an interim one. He stated:

The Budget Statement that I am presenting today will cover a period of 7 ½ months from the 15th August, 1947 to the 31st March, 1948. I may briefly explain the circumstances in which it has been necessary to present a fresh Budget for this period. With the division of the country and the emergence of two independent Governments in place of the old Central Government, the Budget for the current year 1947-48 passed by the Legislature last March ceased to be operative. Although under the transitional provisions of the constitution, Government could authorize the expenditure necessary for the rest of the financial year, it was felt that it will be in accordance with the public wish that a Budget should be placed before the representatives of the people at the earliest possible moment. There is nothing spectacular about my statement and there will be no surprises associated with a Budget. I shall place before the House our estimate of revenue and expenditure for this period and I shall try to indicate in broad outlines the pattern of the economic life of the country and the problems that we will have to face in the immediate future.

And the present Finance Minister will promise nothing spectacular tomorrow.

Halwa or no halwa Budget making is a helluva job.

Until next week


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