Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is likely to present the fifth and last full-year Budget of the NDA government before 2019 general elections on February 1, and is least likely to be populist. The Prime Minister Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) member Rathin Roy said that the government will present a responsible budget. It is being highly speculated that the Narendra Modi government in its last budget may announce a populist measure to score in the upcoming general elections, but PMEAC member differs: I would not think any populism is permissible. I think the government will present a responsible budget, which will reflect its expenditure quality and commitments.
“I don’t think that the government will use the budget to be populist. I am very confident that political authorities understand this,” Rathin Roy told PTI in an interview. The Finance Ministry is currently holding several pre-budget consultations with different stakeholders, during which the corporate sector demanded lowering down of the corporate tax and quicker GST funds. Arun Jaitley also spoke to stakeholders of agriculture sector and trade unions and assured them of safeguarding their interests.
On the sidelines of the pre-budget consultation meeting, Rathin Roy said that a group of economists asked Arun Jaitley to stick to fiscal deficit and look into the Direct Tax Law.
Rathin Roy, speaking further on the upcoming Budget, suggested that the government should focus on completing the reforms undertaken by it in over the last three years, instead of announcing new ones. “Many good reforms have been started, they will take time to complete, so rather than embarking on a fresh set of reforms, the focus should be on completing reforms like the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), universalisation and deepening of banking etc,” he said.
The 2018-29 Budget is also going to be the first budget after the ambitious switch to the indirect tax regime of the GST. Even though independent India’s biggest tax reform of GST was implemented from July 1, the budget for 2017-18 (April- March), had followed the practice of tax revenue projections under the heads of customs duty, central excise and service tax alongside direct tax numbers. With excise duty and service tax being subsumed in the goods and services tax (GST), the classifications will undergo change.
The ministries will have to provide the actual money spent in 2016-17 along with the budget estimates and revised estimates for current fiscal. Along with this, they have to give the budget they are expecting for 2018-19 as well. Scrapping a colonial-era tradition of presenting the budget at the end of February, Jaitley had for the first time presented the annual accounts on 1 February, 2017.