Behind the quiet exterior, the finance ministry in North Block has been in a bustle.
In August, immediately after taking charge of the finance ministry, P Chidambaram got down to his task by holding a brainstorming session with key bureaucrats and top financial administrators to
reverse a discomforting deceleration in the Indian economy.
Key policy makers, over the years, have left behind a rich footprint. Their body of work has significantly influenced India’s policy making, particularly in the areas of poverty, food management, social security, fiscal management and taxation.
The budget making exercise begins with a voluminous budget circular sent out in September to all ministries, departments, and autonomous bodies.
Each department replies with detailed estimates of all the money they will need for the following year, for everything from special projects to routine expenses and wages.
These reams of accounts are distilled to form the first broad contours of next year’s budget.
Policymakers and finance ministry officials play a key role in toning up the economy and the preparation of the budget as plans, programmes and immediate objectives of the economy are dovetailed into the broad agenda of the government of the day.
The fact that the finance minister seeks the counsel of government experts reflects the role that the policymakers and key officials, many of whom are professional economists, play in budget making - both within and outside the confines of North Block.
In addition, the role of think-tanks and professional economists is becoming increasingly important.