Next budget may advance to January, co-opt railways: Sources

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New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) Even as a proposal is being examined to do way with the annual exercise of presenting the railway finances separately before the Lok Sabha, the government is looking at advancing to January the date of tabling the national budget, official sources said.

“This proposal (to shift the budget presentation to January) is being examined. But a decision is likely to be taken soon. This idea has come about to overcome a practical hurdle every year,” a source in the Finance Ministry said.

“Thus far, the budget is tabled in February-end. But the release of funds comes only by July — three-four months of the fiscal year are wasted in completing the formalities,” the official explained.

“So it is suggested by our senior officials that the date be advanced to January so that by March-end the funds are received by all ministries. This way, all the ministries will also get one full year to spend what is allocated to them.”

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The move also comes against the backdrop of the government announcing a four-member committee to examine the desirability and feasibility of having a new financial or fiscal year, currently from April 1 to March 31.

“The committee, headed by former Chief Economic Adviser Shankar Acharya, will examine the merits and demerits of various dates for commencing the financial year, including the existing April 1 to March 31,” the statement said.

Earlier this month, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa told IANS that the government is looking at a proposal from the Railway Ministry to merge its budget with the general budget — 92 years after the separation in keeping with the social contribution of the rairoad network.

“We will look at his (Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s) proposal and examine it. It will have to be done in consultation with the Railway Ministry. That process has started,” the finance secretary said.

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The rail budget has had a separate existence from the general budget since 1924 when the British spun it off for a better focus on India’s most important infrastructure network. The Railways then accounted for 70 per cent of the total budget.



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