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Cabinets formal nod to be sought for Budget on Feb. 1
September, 27th 2016

The Finance Ministry has settled on February 1 as the new date for the presentation of the Union Budget, with the decision expected to be placed before the Cabinet for formal approval “soon”, a senior official of the Ministry told The Hindu.The Cabinet had last week approved the merger of the railway budget with the general budget and had given an in-principle nod for presenting the Budget earlier than February 28.

“We have decided the date for the Budget to be February 1,” the Finance Ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, said. “The formal process of approval by the Cabinet will take place soon.”

The idea behind bringing forward the Budget date, according to the government, is so that ministries and state governments can begin disbursing funds from the beginning of the financial year. At the moment, with the Budget being presented at the end of February, several processes, including the vote on account, result in states being able to disburse funds only by late May.

Advancing the Budget date will allow them to release funds by April.

“The Department (of Economic Affairs) has held extensive consultations with the financial advisers of various ministries and departments and the revised calendar has been drawn up,” Economic Affairs Shaktikanta Das told reporters last week. “There is a state of preparedness already in place.”

The decision to change the Budget date, and correspondingly the dates of the Budget session of Parliament, does not require Parliamentary approval, according to M.R. Madhavan, co-founder and current President of the think-tank PRS Legislative Research.

“The decision to change the Budget date is a Cabinet decision,” Mr. Madhavan said.

“The Cabinet advises the President and the President summons Parliament. The Parliament has no say on when it meets, the government decides that. This is very clear in the Constitution.”

The government is also reported to be in talks with the Election Commission to make sure that the presentation of the Budget does not clash with the assembly elections that are due to be held next year in States including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

The Ministry of Finance released the Budget circular for the 2017-18 Budget on September 23. The Cabinet had also approved the removal of the Plan and Non-Plan distinction in government accounts, something Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had proposed in his Budget speech this year.

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