The government may overhaul its budget process on Wednesday when the Union cabinet meets to decide on several changes, including merging the rail and general budget.
Presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union cabinet will consider merging the two big budget sessions, and advancing the general budget by a month. A proposal to do away with the division of planned and non-planned funds for ministries is also under consideration.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley met parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar on Tuesday to discuss possible schedules of the winter and budget sessions of Parliament. “The winter session may start by early November and the next session may begin from January 24,” said a finance ministry official.
“This move to advance and merge budgets will require support from Opposition parties,” said the official. To that end, senior government managers have started reaching out to the Opposition.
If the budget is advanced, individuals and companies will get more time to firm up savings. The states may also better utilise the winter and summer seasons for construction works with early flow of funds.
While the plan to merge the rail and the general budget is seen as an end to the culture of “populism”, the convergence of separate heads for development and recurring expenses will make the handing of funds simpler and more efficient.
“Constructing a hospital is planned expense but paying doctors’ salaries is non-planned. This is meaningless,” said an expert.
The budgets are tabled in February. While the rail budget is passed in less than a month, the other estimate of income and expenses requires three months for its passage.
“It will also help states as they will get more money in hand during the summer and winter season,” said a senior government official.
If the budget is advanced, the finance ministry may start the Centre’s pre-budget consultations with stakeholders on taxes and policy changes from September, instead of October.