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Cabinet to take up Budget overhaul; Session likely from January 24

The Cabinet may next week take up the proposal for merging Railway Budget with the General Budget and advancing the Parliament session by about a month to January 24 so as to complete all legislative work before the beginning of the new fiscal from April.

By: | New Delhi | Published: September 15, 2016 4:38 PM
The Finance Ministry is overhauling the Budget making exercise which may see scrapping of the current practice of presenting a separate budget for the Railways as well as shifting to multi-year outcome based budgeting, sources said. (PTI) The Finance Ministry is overhauling the Budget making exercise which may see scrapping of the current practice of presenting a separate budget for the Railways as well as shifting to multi-year outcome based budgeting, sources said. (PTI)

The Cabinet may next week take up the proposal for merging Railway Budget with the General Budget and advancing the Parliament session by about a month to January 24 so as to complete all legislative work before the beginning of the new fiscal from April.

While early convening of the Budget Session may become a norm in the years to come, the Winter Session of Parliament is likely to be convened on November 12 this year to get the supporting legislations for the GST rollout approved early.

The Finance Ministry is overhauling the Budget making exercise which may see scrapping of the current practice of presenting a separate budget for the Railways as well as shifting to multi-year outcome based budgeting, sources said.

Till now the Budget Session was convened in the third or fourth week of February, and the Union Budget presented on last date of the month. This led to the legislative approvals taking place in two phases spread between February and May.

In order to get all tax proposals as well as expenditure on schemes kicking in from beginning of new fiscal on April 1, the budget session of Parliament is likely to be convened on January 24, sources said.

The Economic Survey, that presents the state of economy, is likely to be presented on January 30 and the Union Budget on January 31.

Appropriation as well as finance bill would thus get approved in the following two months, sources said.

Keen to meet the April 1 target to roll out the landmark Goods and Services Tax (GST), the government may advance Winter Session of Parliament by a fortnight to November 12 to get supporting legislations passed, leaving sufficient time for implementation of the new indirect tax regime.

Winter Session of Parliament is normally convened in the third or fourth week of November but this year the government is looking at starting the month-long session immediately after the end of festive season.

An early Winter Session would help get the Central GST (CGST) and Integrated GST (IGST) legislations, that will pave way for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), to be approved within November or latest by early December, sources said.

The two are supporting legislations to the Constitutional Amendment Bill approved by Parliament last month, would list out the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, threshold limits, GST rates including the floor rates with bands, special rates for raising additional resources during natural calamities/disasters and special provisions for certain States. Sources said as part of the budget overhaul,

Sources said as part of the budget overhaul, distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure is planned to be done away with. There will also be a move away from the traditional budgeting based on inputs (how much can be spent) to budgeting measurable by outcomes (what can be achieved with the spending).

Through ‘Outcome-based budgeting’ the Finance Ministry is trying to shift from traditional performance-based budgeting by planning expenditure, fixing appropriate targets and quantifying deliverables of each scheme.

The outcome-based budgeting will outline what can be achieved with what is being spent and will involve the process of defining the desired long term outcomes from the scheme of the concerned ministry, department or function.

Besides, the finance ministry is also considering a multi-year approach in budgeting so that the budget document gives a preview of the government’s finances for the next two-three years.

“A multi-year approach in budgeting helps to utilise resources better and bring in more transparency in accounting,” sources said.

If the proposal of multi-year budgeting comes through, then the Budget document for 2017-18 would give “capital and revenue” expenditure for two/three years.

Currently the budget document only gives details of Plan and non-plan expenditure for the fiscal for which the budget is presented and also for the previous two financial years.

The Finance Ministry comes out with a ‘Medium-term Expenditure Framework Statement’ which sets forth a three-year rolling target for the expenditure indicators with specification of underlying assumptions and risks involved.

Since the finance ministry is planning abolition of the distinction between ‘Plan/non-Plan’ expenditure and replacing it with ‘capital and revenue’ expenditure, the 2017-18 Budget would give revenue projections, expenditure targets and outcomes for next two/three years.

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