Union Budgets: A quick lookback
Budgets with Most and less words
Who presented first budget
Morarji presented 10 budgets
(Shankar Raj, Bengaluru)
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is poised to present her fourth straight Union Budget when she presents financial statements and tax proposals for fiscal year 2022-23 (April 2022 to March 2023) on Feb 1.
At this juncture, let us look at the past: Here are some budget trivia:
India’s first Budget was presented on April 7, 1860 when Scottish economist and politician James Wilson from East India Company presented it to the British Crown.
Independent India’s first budget was presented on November 26, 1947 by the then Finance Minister R K Shanmukham Chetty.
Nirmala Sitharaman holds the record for delivering the longest speech when she spoke for 2 hours and 42 minutes while presenting the Union Budget 2020-21 on February 1, 2020.With two pages still remaining, she had to cut short her speech as she felt unwell. She asked the Speaker to consider the remaining part of the speech as read.
During the course of this speech, she broke her own record of July 2019 – her maiden Budget – when she had spoken for 2 hours and 17 minutes.
MOST WORDS IN BUDGET SPEECH
At 18,650 words, Manmohan Singh delivered the longest Budget speech in terms of words in 1991 under the Narasimha Rao government.
In 2018, then finance minister Arun Jaitley’s speech with 18,604 words was the second longest in terms of word count.
Jaitley spoke for 1 hour and 49 minutes.
SHORTEST BUDGET SPEECH
In 1977, the then finance minister Hirubhai Mulljibhai Patel delivered the shortest budget speech with just 800 words.
MOST NUMBER OF BUDGETS
Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai holds the record of presenting the most number of budgets in the history of the country — 10. This was when he was FM during 1962-69, followed by P Chidambaram (9), Pranab Mukherjee (8), Yashwant Sinha (8) and Manmohan Singh (6).
Until 1999, the Union Budget was presented at 5 pm on the last working day of February as per British era practice.
Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha in 1999 changed the budget presentation timing to 11 am.
Arun Jaitley started presenting the Union Budget on February 1 in 2017, departing from the colonial-era tradition of using the last working day of that month.
Until 1955, the Union Budget was presented in English.
However, the Congress-led government later decided to print the Budget papers in both Hindi and English.
Covid-19 pandemic turned the Budget for 2021-22 was paperless – a first in Independent India.
In 2019, Sitharaman became the second woman to have presented the budget after Indira Gandhi, who had presented the budget for the financial year 1970-71.
That year, Sitharaman did away with the traditional budget briefcase and instead went for a traditional ‘bahi-khata’ with the National Emblem to carry the speech and other documents.
Till 2017, the railway budget and Union Budget were presented separately.
After being presented separately for 92 years, the Railway budget was merged in the Union Budget in 2017 and presented together.
Till 1950, the budget was printed at Rashtrapati Bhavan till it got leaked and the venue of printing had to be shifted to a press at the Minto Road in New Delhi.
In 1980, a government press was set up in the North Block – the seat of the finance ministry.
The Black Budget: The 1973-74 Budget presented by Yashwantrao B Chavan in the Indira Gandhi government was called the Black Budget as the fiscal deficit during that year was Rs 550 crore.
It was a time when India was going through acute financial distress.
Carrot & Stick Budget: The Union budget presented by VP Singh for the Congress government on February 28, 1986, was the first step towards dismantling license raj in India. It was called the ‘Carrot and Stick’ budget as it offered both rewards and punishment.
It introduced MODVAT (Modified Value Added Tax) credit for lowering the cascading effect of tax that consumers had to pay while also launching an intense drive against smugglers, black marketers, and tax evaders.
Manmohan Singh’s landmark 1991 budget under the PV Narasimha Rao government that ended licence raj and began the era of economic liberalisation, is known as ‘Epochal Budget’. Presented at a time when India was on the brink of an economic collapse, it among other things slashed customs duty from 220 per cent to 150 per cent and took steps to promote exports.
This credit should go to P Chidambaram. In the 1997-98, he lowered tax rates to increase collections. He slashed maximum marginal income tax rate for individuals from 40 per cent to 30 per cent and that for domestic companies to 35 per cent besides unleashing a number of major tax reforms including a voluntary disclosure of income scheme to recover black money.
Referred to as the ‘Dream Budget’, it also slashed customs duty to 40 per cent and simplified excise duty structure.
Yashwant Sinha’s Millennium Budget in 2000 laid the road map for the growth of India’s Information Technology (IT) industry as it phased out incentives on software exporters and lowered customs duty on 21 items such as the computer and computer accessories.
However, Sinha’s 2002-03 budget for the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee is popularly remembered as the Rollback Budget as several proposals in it were withdrawn or rolled back.
Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2021 presented what she called was ‘once-in-a-century budget’ as it looked to revive Asia’s third-largest economy via investing in infrastructure and healthcare while relying on an aggressive privatisation strategy and robust tax collections. (Author is a former editor of reputed English dailies and senior journalist)