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General Budget or Interim Budget?

By Arup Roychoudhury
January 31, 2019 15:40 IST

General Budget is a terminology earlier used to differentiate between the Union Budget with the Railway Budget. Full-fledged budgets are titled "Union Budget", while interim Budgets are titled just that.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal will present interim Budget on February 1, the finance ministry has clarified.

There were speculations over the nature of the Budget following a workshop by Press Information Bureau (PIB) on Tuesday, where it was reportedly mentioned that it will be titled General Budget, 2019-20.

 

Confusion gathered momentum after the commerce ministry on Wednesday in a Whatsapp message to the media said: "Do not refer Budget 2019-20 as interim Budget, it is officially referred as general Budget 2019-20."

As some TV channels ran the story that it would be a full-fledged Budget, the finance ministry intervened on Wednesday and clarified that it will be called ‘Interim Budget 2019-20’.

“This Budget will be called Interim Budget 2019-20 and, therefore, don't have any confusion on this issue,” a finance ministry spokesperson told reporters.

The spokesperson’s statement referred to what the Budget speech and documents will officially be titled.

Full-fledged budgets are titled "Union Budget", while interim Budgets are titled Interim Budget.

Even full-fledged budgets are not titled General Budget. General Budget is a terminology earlier used to differentiate between the Union Budget with the Railway Budget. Since 2017-18, the Railway Budget has been merged with the General Budget.

There have been suppositions among markets and policy watchers that, as the government heads into Lok Sabha elections this year, after losses in three state elections, the 2019-20 Budget could be more than just an interim Budget.

Goyal, filling in for Arun Jaitley, could announce a massive nationwide income-support scheme for farmers, as well as a forward-looking commitment to bringing in tax sops for the middle and salaried people if the Modi government is reelected.

According to the convention, interim Budgets do not contain any direct tax proposals that might require an amendment to the Income Tax Act.

The Finance Bills accompanying the interim Budget are short 7-10 page documents meant to extend the existing budgetary provisions from April 1 to July 31, by which time it is assumed that a new or returning government would have prepared and presented a full Budget for the financial year.

Past interim Budgets have changed indirect tax rates, but, with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) now in the purview of the GST council, if a finance minister follows the set convention, he could now only touch customs rates.

There is no law that prevents a government from presenting a sixth full Budget.

In an interview with Business Standard in late December, Jaitley, who is in New York and recovering from a surgery, had said, “I will go by precedence, that in an election year, there are certain things you can present, and certain things you cannot.”

However, appearing in an event in Mumbai through video-conference from New York, Jaitley had said that while the government would work “within the parameters of the conventions that exist”, the contents of the interim Budget would be decided by the larger interests of the economy.

“Ordinarily, there should be no reason why we should move away from that convention, but then the larger interests of the economy always dictate what should be in the Interim Budget… Without getting into specifics, some of those challenges really can’t afford to wait.

"There would be a necessity to address some of them. We intend to work within the parameters of the conventions that exist,” Jaitley had said at the event organised by a business news channel.

Arup Roychoudhury in New Delhi
Source: source
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