What happens on Budget Day? Let’s find out!
Dost budget day par, aam aadmi ko bahut excitement aur gehri tension, dono saath saath hoti hai, yeh toh humein already pata hai. Lekin sarkar ke offices mein kya kya processes kiye jate hai? Finance Ministry ke liye toh, Budget Day poore saal mein, sabse important din hota hai - toh iss din pe Finance Minster ka kya programme, schedule aur time-table rehta hai?
Chaliye dekhte hai, what exactly happens on Budget Day:
830 AM - As you can imagine, the day begins bright and early for the star of the show, that is the Finance Minister. The common practice is for the Finance Minister to depart from his or her residence (or North Block, depending on where he/she will be put up) at 8.30 AM for the completion of final formalities at the Finance Ministry’s North Block.
Fun fact - Finance Ministry ke North Block mein budget documents print kiye jaate hai under immense security and scrutiny. Jab budget documents ka printing jaari hai, nobody - not even the Finance Minister is allowed to leave the premises or use their cellphones on the premises. They are not allowed any contact with the outside world. Senior officials are however, permitted to return home during this period.
915 AM - Photo op sirf party nights, #couplegoals aur lockdown hobbies ke liye nahi rehta hai but for important business and government events too. In fact, the earliest cameras and photographs were reserved specially for hallmark days and milestone events, such as Budget Day. Ji haan, photo session Budget Day pe hota hi hai. It is important and receives an ear-marked slot in the schedule of the Finance Minister on this important day. A photo op for the whole team involved including the Finance Minister, the Minister for State and the entire Finance Ministry team involved in budget planning is held between 9.15 and 9.30 AM at the Finance Ministry’s North Block.
As you can imagine, people are this year going to be waiting to see this picture because of all the excitement about the fact that our first lady Finance Minister ditched the colonial briefcase for a desi bahi-khata, last year. Bahi-khata is translated into English as “ledger” - many Indians felt like this was a great way to carry Union Budget to its moment in the spotlight. Of course the little things matter on such an important day!
930 AM - Agar main Finance Ministry team mein hota, especially Finance Minister ke jagah mein - this is when I would start feeling stage fright, lekin obviously most ministers have grown habituated to being watched by the whole nation. The finance minister and team depart from the Finance Ministry’s North Block for Rashtrapati Bhavan. Yes indeed, there is a visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan scheduled and practiced as a norm as part of Budget Day rituals.
10 AM - The Finance Minister will arrive at Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet with the President of India in order to present the Union Budget to him for approval. A short meeting takes place, wherein the Finance Minister receives an approval from the President, on the Union Budget. Aap soch rahe honge ki President itna jaldi, kaise iss lamba document ko pad ke approve kar saktein hai? Good question dost! Actually the Finance Minister and Prime Minister together prepare something called a Summary For the President - this is the document that the President goes through and approves on the day of the Budget. Thereafter, the Finance Minister moves on to Parliament.
10.15 AM - The cabinet meeting in Parliament begins. This is when the Finance Minister presents the Budget to the Cabinet for an approval to present it to the Parliament. Again, just like in the case of the President, a Summary for Parliament is presented to the assembly, based on which the government gets approval for the Union Budget. This process of presentation and approval usually takes place between 10.30 and 10.45 AM.
11 AM - The presentation of the Union Budget to Parliament begins. This is also broadcasted Live to the general public. Especially this year, there is tremendous anticipation around the Union Budget on account of Covid 19 and the negative impact that the pandemic has had on people’s livelihoods and spendings. We can expect the whole nation to be glued to their televisions at 11 AM on February 1, 2021 because all of us want something or the other: tax exemptions, some allowance for what we’re spending to work-from-home, extension of NRI status and so on.
Speaking of the budget timing dost, some interesting trivia. Ji haan, I am a treasure trove of fun facts! Before India attained Independence, Budget Speech 5PM pe kiya jata tha which was 11AM UK time. Isse, UK timing ke hisaab se, it was not inconvenient for key officials to watch the budget speech Live. Lekin 1999 mein, India ne tradition badal diya aur woh saal mein 11 AM budget speech ka trend suru ho gaya. It makes sense kyuki budget ka asar stock markets pe dekha jata hai, in a huge way.
Ek aur fun fact about Budget Day! Actually Budget Day bhi last day of February tha - until 2016 - when Budget Day was moved to February 1. This was also the year when the government - in September - announced that the Railway Budget would be presented together with the Union Budget.
Finance Minister ke Budget Speech can vary in length. It is usually somewhere between one-and-a-half-hour and two-hours-long. The Budget Speech begins with an address by the Finance Minister to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. But before that there is an address by the Minister of State. This is probably going to be the first year that the Members of Parliament will be seated in three different rooms, with the goal of adhering to social distancing norms.
Budget Speech ke 2 parts rehte hai:
Part A - General Economic Survey of the country
School ke Open Day pe class teacher aapka report card aapke parents ko dikhati thi nah? Ussi tarah, saare ministries aur saare states ka report card, poore public aur poore Parliament ko dikhaya jata hai. The Economic Survey shows the performance of the various states and ministries in the past year and the plans that they have for the next year. Any policy-related challenges are also articulated during this stage of the Budget Speech.
Basically during this stage, we get an insight into the economic state of the country; a macro view. Sarkar ke priorities yaha pe pata chaltein hai.
Inflation, fiscal deficit and current account deficit sab Part A mein cover kiye jaate hai. Gaye saal mein kitne taxes aur borrowings liye the? Uss capital se kya sab spending hua aur kya outcome tha?... Yeh sab aam aadmi ko pata chalta hai, Budget Speech ka Part A mein.
Part B - Tax Proposals
Taxation mein jo bhi changes aane wala hai, 1st April se, yeh sab Budget Speech ka Part B mein bola jata hai. Increase or decrease in tax exemptions, new taxes or any variations in the current taxation are all discussed here. Of course, this is the part that the aam aadmi looks at with great hope and anticipation.
After the Finance Minister’s speech
A document titled the Annual Financial Statement is put down on the table of the Rajya Sabha. This takes place on the same day, right after the Finance Minister’s speech concludes. A few days later, a general discussion takes place in Lok Sabha. The Finance Minister responds to any debate at the end of the discussion. No discussions, however, take place on the same day.
Are you wondering about when the famed Halwa ceremony takes place? Well truth be told, it does not actually take place on Budget Day, but a few days prior, around January 20. While we cannot be 100% sure that the ceremony will indeed take place this year, amidst social distancing norms, the halwa ceremony usually marks the start of the printing process for the budget documents. So after the ceremony, usually, the staff involved in the budget printing process are all locked in at the Finance Ministry’s North Block. Incidentally, the halwa ceremony is aimed to be a gesture of appreciation for the efforts that the entire budget team puts in. And of course, one might call it a sort-of sweetener for the fact that they will be locked at work for the next 10 days to a week.
Learn more about the Union Budget, the aam aadmi’s expectations, the Budget’s impact on your investments and more learnings about #BudgetKaMatlab - by tuning in to our other podcasts. Goodbye friends, until we meet the next time!