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Finance Minister starts formal pre-Budget consultations
December, 30th 2010

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will start the customary pre-Budget consultations next week, at a meeting with a group of agriculturists on January 7. This will be followed by one with top industrialists on January 11.

Thereafter, he will meeting with one or the other group almost daily till January 21, to firm up proposals for Union Budget 2011-12. Representatives of trade unions will give their list on January 12, followed by a meeting with non-government organisations on January 13. NGOs were included in the pre-Budget talks for the first time last year.

Mukherjee will parley with a group of economists on January 17 and banking and financial institutions will give him their wish-list on January 18. He will hold wide-ranging talks with state finance ministers on January 19. The round would conclude with a meeting with regulators.

Revenue secretary Sunil Mitra has already had a round of discussion with various sections of industry and other stakeholders this month.

Entry to the North Block of the Central Secretariat, which houses the finance ministry, will be blocked for visitors from next Friday. The Tax Research Unit (TRU) of the Central Board of Excise and Customs and the Tax Policy & Legislation (TPL) division of the Central Board of Direct Taxes will restrict entry to outsiders from January 4.

The Budget is kept a top secret in India, mainly due to the indirect tax proposals, which if known in advance are thought to lead to hoarding. At least a month before the Budget, entry to North Block is restricted and all phone lines and mobiles of officials working on the document are monitored. The secrecy is so high that even the finance minister cannot take the Budget speech home. The documents are printed at the press in the basement of North Block and the people involved are locked in for almost three weeks.

However, according to the Open Budget Survey 2010, released by International Budget Partnership, the Indian budgetary system has become more transparent over the years, with the government providing significant information. Indias open budget index score improved from 53 in 2006 to 67 in 2010. To bring in more transparency, the government had recently released a manual giving details of all the processes involved in different stages of Budget-making.

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