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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 26, New Delhi, June 13, 2020

Need for New Union Budget in July | Bharat Dogra

Saturday 13 June 2020, by Bharat Dogra

The on-going financial year has seen very big changes in the revenue and expenditure of the union government, and that too at a very early stage of the financial year. Very soon after the Union Budget was announced, from March onwards there were very big and unforeseen changes in revenue and expenditure due to COVID-19 related factors including a prolonged lockdown. The impact of all this is going to continue for a much longer time beyond the lockdown period.

The revenue receipts have declined in a big way while there is very pressing need for new expenditure. All this obviously has a significant impact also on centre-state financial relations. The financial condition of most states, hardly happy at the time of presentation of union and state budgets, has become much more precarious in a short time and their ability to meet essential welfare expenditures at a time when there is very pressing need for this has suffered badly.

On top of all this there was an announcement by the Union Government on June 5 regarding suspension of approved schemes. The Hindustan Times ( June 6 ) reported, “ The government has directed ministries not to launch any new scheme that entails capital expenditure in this financial year, and suspended already approved projects , barring those under the Rs. 20.97 lakh crore economic relief and stimulus package it unveiled in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“...The Department of Expenditure said that the schemes that have been already approved for the current financial year would remain suspended until March 31 , 2021 or further orders, whichever is earlier. Even schemes that have received in-principle approval from the department have been suspended.”

What are the implications for the welfare of people and overall for development? This is something that needs to be clearly understood by people and by all sides. There should be transparency, the latest facts and figures of revenue and expenditure and resource availability for needs of critical importance should be clearly available and there should be well-informed discussions based on this. This is necessary to avoid further hardships to people, particularly weaker sections, who have already suffered greatly in recent times. If there have been announcements of additional funds under some heads then we should also know what are the areas where cutbacks have been made. Only then a clear picture will emerge.

Keeping in view all these factors it is important that preparations should be made for presenting a new budget without further delay so that a new budget can be presented in Parliament in July.

The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.

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