Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget for the financial year 2022-23 on 1 February at 11 am. The annual financial statement by the government presents an overall picture of the financial position of the Government of India, including that of Railways. It also earmarks the allocation of funds for defence.
Here’s a brief look at what the Union Budget is, and everything you need to know about it:
What is it?
As per Article 112 (1) of the Constitution, the Budget or the Annual Financial Statement contains the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Government of India in respect of a financial year, which starts from 1 April and ends on 31 March.
The Budget is prepared by the finance ministry in consultation with other concerned ministries. Since 2017, the Budget is presented on 1 February at 11 am by the finance minister in the Lok Sabha.
Earlier, it used to be presented on the last day of February.
The presentation of the Railway Budget was a separate practice until 2017, when it was merged with the General Budget. A Niti Aayog committee in its report suggested that it was an annual ritual for over 90 years that should be done away with.
Hence, the Union Budget now presents an overall picture of the financial position of the Government of India, including that of Indian Railways.
The Union Budget gives the actual expenditure for the preceding year, the revised estimates for the current year and the budget estimates for the next year.
A few days ahead of the presentation, a halwa ceremony is held to mark the printing of the budget documents.
As per the tradition, halwa is cooked in a large kadhai and served to the entire staff of the finance ministry. After the ritual, the entire staff that’s directly associated with the Budget process stays inside the ministry, cut off from their families, to maintain secrecy and any possible leaks till the Budget is presented.
How the Budget is presented
On the eve of the Budget day, the President addresses both the Houses of Parliament. The speech also marks the commencement of the Budget Session of Parliament.
On the Budget day, the finance minister meets the president at the Rashtrapati Bhawan before heading to Parliament.
Before presenting it in Parliament, the Budget is formally approved by the Union Cabinet headed by the prime minister on the same day.
The finance minister presents the Union Budget which contains the minister’s speech, key features of the budget and the annual financial statement, which is the core budget document. Simultaneously, a copy of the Budget is laid on the table of the Rajya Sabha.
How long is the Budget speech?
The budget speech can last anywhere between 90 to 120 minutes. According to a report by Economic Times, the Budget 2020 speech was the longest in the history of independent India, which went on for two hours and 40 minutes. Despite the lengthy presentation, the finance minister could not finish the last two pages and had to cut it short.
In 2019, Sitharaman delivered the budget speech for two hours and 17 minutes and broke the earlier record of Jaswant Singh’s 2003 speech by two minutes.
In 1977, the then finance minister Hirubhai M Patel, delivered the shortest budget speech of merely 800 words.
Discussion on the Budget
No discussion on the Budget takes place on the day it is presented to the House. The presentation of the General Budget is followed by the introduction of the Finance Bill, and thereafter, the Lok Sabha adjourns for the day. There is no Question Hour on the day of the presentation of the Union Budget.
The whole process of discussion and voting on the demands for grants and the passage of the Appropriation and Finance Bills has to be completed before 31 March.
Starting from the president's speech on the eve of the Budget day, its presentation in Lok Sabha, and its discussion on a later date falls under Parliament's Budget Session. It starts from January 31 and has to be completed before 31 March .
What is an interim budget and how is it different from Union Budget?
An interim budget is generally presented in an election year, when the government does not have time to present a full budget and need Parliament approval to withdraw from the Consolidated Funds of India for its expenses.
While the Union Budget is for an entire financial year, an interim budget is presented for a duration before a new government takes charge.
Just like the Union Budget, the interim budget also documents details of the government’s expenses and earning during that period.
What is Vote on Account, Demand for Grants, Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill?
Vote on Account:
Prior to 2017, the Budget used to be presented on the last working day of February. Hence, Parliament was not able to vote the entire budget before the commencement of the new financial year.
To keep enough finance at the disposal of the government to run the country, it obtains Vote on Account from Parliament. Normally, the vote on account is taken for two months for a sum equivalent to one-sixth of the estimated expenditure for the entire year under various Demands for Grants.
However, with the advancement of the date of presentation of Budget since 2017-18 to 1 February, the necessity to obtain vote on Account is no more necessary. The Demands for Grants and the Appropriation Bill are passed well before the close of the financial year.
Demand for Grants: The estimates of expenditure, which is included in the annual financial statement, is submitted in the form of Demand for Grants. Generally one Demand for Grant is presented on behalf of each ministry or department. For larger ministries and departments more than one Demand can be presented.
Appropriation Bill: After the Demand for Grants are voted by the Lok Sabha, Parliament's approval is sought through the Appropriation Bill to withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund of India.
Finance Bill: At the time of presentation of the annual financial statement before Parliament, a Finance Bill is also presented. It is ordinarily introduced every year to give effect to the financial proposals of the government for the following financial year and includes a Bill to give effect to supplementary financial proposals for any period. It details the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of taxes proposed in the Budget.
With inputs from agencies
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