Budget 2016: Govt cuts down on foreign trips, but it’s still expensive
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be expanding India’s global image but his smaller council of ministers isn’t turning out to be any cheaper for the exchequer.
The NDA spent Rs 567 crore during the financial year on tour expenses of his council of ministers, more than double of the Rs 269 crore allocated by the finance ministry this year.
The statistics – made public in the budget documents presented on Monday – come against the backdrop of criticism targeting the Prime Minister for his frequent foreign trips at the cost of domestic issues.
In the last 21 months since taking charge, Modi travelled abroad on 19 occasions, visiting 33 countries. This year, he has decided to limit his foreign engagements to the bare minimum, with the first foreign visit scheduled in March to Saudi Arabia, Brussels and the United States. However, it remains unclear if the fewer foreign trips will significantly cut on tour expenses.
Though the ministry expects to wrap up the expenditure on the council of ministers and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in less than Rs 419 crore, a government official said the PMO is expected to overshoot this estimate in the next financial year.
In fact, a significant proportion of the additional funds required this year were to clear bills of previous visits, a government official said, referring to six foreign visits that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken during the last leg of his tenure.
Payments for most of the foreign visits that Modi had undertaken in the last one year are also pending. Of 19 visits, the government paid Rs 77 crore that covers about half-dozen trips. Bills for the chartered aircrafts for the remaining visits are still being processed.