|HOME | BUSINESS | BUDGET 99 | REPORT|
April 5, 1999
Uncertainty shrouds fate of Sinha's Budget
Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi
It is being touted as one of the three 'B's that had helped the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government look ahead with confidence. The reference is to the Budget 1999-2000, the other two being the Bus Ride (to Lahore) and Bihar (where the Congress got egg on its face with its flip-flop attitude).
Yet, with the coalition government tottering on the edge of a collapse, following the Union Cabinet's rejection of the demands made by the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by J Jayalalitha, the future of the Budget, presented by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on February 27, hangs in balance.
What makes the situation worse is that the Lok Sabha has passed the Appropriations Bill but not the Finance Bill. The former looks after the expenditure part in terms of salaries of government employees, etc.
However, the various provisions of the Finance Bill have to be passed by the Lok Sabha (being a money bill, the Rajya Sabha has no voting right). With Parliament in recess, the government is due to debate the provisions of the Finance Bill when the Lok Sabha reconvenes. It is during such debates that changes are often made in the original provisions.
The political turmoil has already had an impact, with Parliament being reconvened on April 15 instead of the earlier April 12. If the BJP-led alliance government does survive the AIADMK's imminent pullout, then the Budget is likely to go ahead as presented.
"It is rather early to predict what will happen because it all depends on whether the government manages to pull through," said a highly-placed source at the finance ministry. He added that so far the ministry has not prepared a contingency plan and is working on the premise that the government will pull through, AIADMK or no AIADMK.
In which case, the government has only to ensure that the various provisions are passed, maybe with a change or two to satisfy the various allies.
If the BJP-led government were to fall, then it is for the next government to decide what to do. "It is the decision of the new government to either carry on with the present Budget and then introduce various amendments to make changes suit its own requirements. Or it can seek a new Budget in toto, but the latter option creates difficulties," said the source.
What complicates the matter is that effective April 1, 1999, the new tax rates -- for income, excise, customs -- have come into effect. The tax rates were rationalised and new taxes enforced. Any change in them will no doubt add to the problems of the tax-paying individuals and companies.
Moreover, if the present government were to fall, then a Vote on Account will be introduced to so that the last finance bill does not lapse. Incidentally, with the last financial year having ended on March 31, 1999, the coalition government had passed a Vote on Account for a period of two months before Parliament went into recess, a normal practice since Budgets are rarely passed by March.
Former Lok Sabha secretary-general and constitutional expert Dr Subhash C Kashyap said that in an election year or for special reason, the government can pass a Vote on Account. "At any given moment, there has to be a government which can pass the Vote on Account. The Vote on Account is passed for a specific period depending on how long it will take the next government to present and pass the Budget," he said.
"The question is whether the Lok Sabha is dissolved, in which case the Vote on Account will be for a period of up to four months, the time needed for elections and the formation of new government. If, however, only the government changes and the Lok Sabha is not dissolved, then the Vote on Account is needed for just two months, the time needed for a new non-BJP government to prepare its Budget," pointed out Kashyap.
Every government likes to have its own Budget. And though the Budget presented by Sinha was welcomed by most, barring the Opposition parties, not changing it will give the BJP a political edge, especially if elections are to follow. But changing the Budget for the purpose of changing can only make things more difficult. Whether Sinha's dream Budget survives or not will be known over the next few days.
|Tell us what you think of this Budget report|
BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK