24th February, 2003
BUDGET


THE CENTRAL BUDGETS IN RETROSPECT


When Shri Jaswant Singh rises to present the country’s annual budget for 2003-2004 on February 28, 2003 it will be the seventieth occasion when the Union Finance Minister will be seeking Parliament’s permission to defray expenses from the Consolidated Fund of India. The budget broadly reveals measures to augment the Fund besides underlining the projected performance of the economy in the coming fiscal.

Since Independence, India’s annual budgets have been presented on 54 occasions. There were interim budgets on eleven occasions while four times special leave was sought to levy fresh taxes.

Although Shri Jaswant Singh is the 25th holder of the office, he will be the 23rd Finance Minister to present the budget. The other two - K.C. Neogy and H.N. Bahuguna – held office for such short durations in between two budget days that they had no occasion to present a budget. Even Shri Jaswant Singh did not get an opportunity to present a budget when he was Finance Minister in the first Vajpayee Government which was in office for a very short duration in May 1996.

Flashback

On November 26, 1947 R.K. Shanmukham Chetty had presented the first budget of Independent India. But actually it was a review of the economy and no new taxes were proposed as the budget day for 1948-49 was just 95 days away.

In an explanation he had said that the budget for April 1946 to March 1947 was adopted by the then interim Government in March 1946. But that budget was for undivided India and as the budget for 1947-48 passed by the legislature had ceased to be operative with the division of the country it was felt that it would be in accordance with the public wish if a budget be placed before the representatives of the people at the earliest possible moment.

Chetty began his budget speech for 1948-49 saying "when I presented my interim budget for free India’s Parliament a few months back…" From then onwards an interim budget began to mean a budget for a short period. Chetty resigned a few days later due to differences with Prime Minister Nehru.

K.C. Neogy then took charge of the Finance portfolio and held that office for just 35 days.

John Mathai became the third Finance Minister of India. He presented two budgets for 1949-50 and 1950-51.

While presenting the budget for 1950-51, the first budget for the Republic of India, he announced the formation of the Planning Commission. But later he resigned as he felt that the Planning Commission was becoming a super cabinet.

The next Finance Minister, C.D. Deshmukh, incidentally the first Indian Governor of the Reserve Bank of India as well, presented an interim budget for 1951-52. The First General Elections were held between December and February 1952.

Deshmukh was given the Finance portfolio after the new ministry assumed office. He felt honoured to present the first budget in the first elected Parliament on the basis of adult franchise.

Budget papers began to be prepared in Hindi from 1955-56.

Deshmukh resigned following his differences with the recommendations of the States’ Reorganisation Commission and formation of a bigger bilingual Bombay State.

T.T. Krishnamachari took over from him. He found that the calculations made in the budget for 1955-56 had gone awry. So on November 30, 1956 in a five-thousand-word speech he described the changed economic situation and underlined the need to levy fresh taxes even before the next budget was presented.

The Second General Elections were held in February-March 1957 and he presented an interim budget for 1957-58 on March 14, 1957 and the final budget for 1957-58 subsequently.

T.T. Krishnamachari resigned in Feburary 1958 amidst controversies. The then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, himself took charge of the Finance portfolio and presented the budget for 1958-59.

In the opening para of his budget speech Nehru had said … "According to custom, the budget statement for the coming year has to be presented today (February 28, 1958). By an unexpected and unhappy chain of circumstances the Finance Minister, who would normally have made this statement this afternoon is no longer with us. This heavy duty has fallen upon me almost at the last moment."

Morarji Desai became the next Finance Minister and he presented the maximum number of budgets so far- ten. They included five annual and one interim budgets during his first stint and three final and one interim in the second tenure when he was both Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

His annual budgets were for the years from 1959-60 to 1963-64 and the interim budget for 1962-63. The third General Elections were held in February 19, 1962.

The annual budgets for three years 1967-68 to 1969-70 and the interim budget for 1967-68 were also presented by him. The interim budget for 1967-68 was on account of the General Elections in March 1967.

Morarji Desai was the only Finance Minister to have had the opportunity to present two budgets on his birthday – in 1964 and 1968. He was born on February 29. Desai resigned in July 1969 in protest against the nationalization of major banks by an ordinance on a Saturday evening. He felt social control of banks was enough.

After the first stint of Morarji Desai, T.T. Krishnamachari once again became the Finance Minister for the second time. He presented the budgets for 1964-65 and 1965-66. But twenty three weeks after presenting the budget for 1965-66 on August 19, 1965 he told Parliament that "…there are occasions when even a year’s interval becomes too long for initiating remedial action to deal with emergent situations" and sought permission to levy new taxes.

He resigned in late 1966. He introduced, among other things, the voluntary disclosure of concealed income scheme. What was deemed to be a one-time measure came to be repeated in later years as well.

Sachindra Choudhuri presented the budget for 1966-67. After the fourth General Elections in 1967, Morarji Desai once again became the Finance Minister. This was his second stint.

After he resigned, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, took over the Finance portfolio. So far, she has been the only woman Finance Minister.

Following the Fifth General Elections in March, 1971 Y.B. Chavan became the Finance Minister. He presented the interim budget for 1971-72 and the final budgets for four years – 1971-72 to 1974-75.

C. Subramaniam presented the budgets between 1975-76 and 1976-77. He cast the widest net to increase revenue through excise.

After the Seventh General Elections in March 1977, the first non-Congress Ministry under the then Janata Party assumed office.

H. M. Patel held the Finance portfolio. He presented the interim budget for 1977-78. In the shortest ever interim budget speech in just 800 words he said …"the annual financial statement prepared by the outgone Congress Ministry will serve the limited purpose of fulfilling a constitutional requirement for taking a vote-on-account before March 31, 1977. He presented the annual budget for 1978-79.

The budget for 1979-80 was presented by Chaudhary Charan Singh who was also Deputy Prime Minister.

After the seventh General Elections in January, 1980 the Congress Party returned to power. Shri R. Venkataraman presented the interim and final budgets from 1980-81 and the annual budget for 1981-82. Later he rose to become the country’s Vice President and President.

Shri Pranab Mukherjee presented the annual budgets for 1982-83, 1983-84 and 1984-85. He was the first Rajya Sabha member to hold the Finance portfolio.

After the Eighth General Elections in 1984, Shri V.P. Singh presented the annual budgets for 1985-86 and 1986-87. There was no interim budget since the elections were held in December 1984.

Rajiv Gandhi presented the budget for 1987-88. He was the third Prime Minister to present a budget after his mother, and grand father. The exercises in zero-based budget began in 1987-88.

The zero-based budgeting is a process of review, analysis and evolution for each budget request in order to justify its inclusion or exclusion from the integrated whole budget before it is finally approved.

In India the zero-based budgeting was implemented in three phases – one third in the first year, two thirds in the second year and fully from the third year. It is a continuous process.

Shri N.D. Tiwari presented the budget for 1988-89 and S.B. Chavan for 1989-90.

After the General Elections in November 1989, the then Janata Dal Government’s Finance Minister, Shri Madhu Dandavate presented the annual budget for 1990-91.

Following subsequent political developments in that year Shri Yashwant Sinha became the Finance Minister and presented the interim budget for 1991-92.

In the election held in May 1991, the Congress returned to power and Shri Manmohan Singh became the Finance Minister. He presented the final budget for 1991-92 in July 1991.

This was the first occasion when the interim and final budgets were presented by two ministers of two different political parties.

The next four annual budgets of Shri Manmohan Singh had an orientation different from the one followed till then. He opened the economy, encouraged foreign investments and reduced the peak import duty from 300 plus to 50 per cent. He will be remembered best for making the rupee convertible in current account in just two phases.

Shri Manmohan Singh introduced the concept of service tax. He said in his 1994-95 budget speech that over the years the tax base had been widened for direct domestic tax. But the services which accounted for forty per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) remained untouched. So he levied service tax on just three services – telephones, non-life insurance and stock brokers. It was at five per cent. Three more services were added in the next budget. But both Shri P. Chidambaram and Shri Yashwant Sinha expanded the list. Presently 48 services are taxed and the burden is passed on to the users. Shri Singh presented the interim budget for 1996-97 as elections were slated for May 1996.

After the elections another non-Congress ministry assumed office. So, a final budget for 1996-97 was presentedby Shri P. Chidambaram of the then Tamil Maanila Congress. It was the second time that an interim and final budgets were presented by two ministers of different political parties.

Following a constitutional crisis the I.K. Gujral Ministry was on its way out and a special session of Parliament was convened only to pass Shri Chidambaram’s 1997-98 budget. It was passed without a debate.

After the General Elections in March 1998, Shri Yashwant Sinha got the Finance portfolio in the Vajpayee Ministry. He presented the interim and final budgets for 1998-99. After the 13th General Elections in 1999, he became the Finance Minister once again. He had presented four annual budgets – from 1999-2000 to 2002-2003.

Shri Yashwant Sinha presented the budget for 1999-2000 in the forenoon. Earlier the budgets used to be presented at five in the evening on the British pattern, since 5 p.m. in India is 1.30 a.m. in London.

While Shri Manmohan Singh concentrated on import duty, Shri Sinha paid great attention to rationalization of excise and reduced the slabs from 11 to one.

The nation eagerly awaits Shri Jaswant Singh’s budget for 2003-2004.

Inputs from : K. Viswanatha Rao, Freelance Journalist

 

 
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