The initiative taken by the Assam government to ensure implementation of budget proposals needs to be widely welcomed. For far too long, the entire budgeting exercise in the State had been reduced to a mockery with promises announced but never fulfilled. In fact, the public perception has long been that these budget promises were made with the intention never to fulfill them, but only to make some grand noises and score political points. There were hardly any credible attempts to inform the people when these promises would materialize and whether the government even had the funds to back up its promises. State Fince minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has now come up with an action plan to ensure time-bound implementation of budget promises. This is in line with this government’s earlier talk about a ‘participatory’ budget to seek public suggestions prior to making the budget, putting the budget passed by the assembly online in public domain, to be followed by an ‘outcome’ budget detailing the status of proposals and money spent. The classification between plan and non-plan expenditures will also go, to be replaced by revenue and capital expenditures in next year’s Assam budget. The Central government too is mulling an overhaul of the budget exercise. Next year’s Union budget may be brought forward to January so as to get going with proposals before the rains set in, subsume the railway budget in the general budget and present a compact set of tax proposals including direct taxes, goods and sales taxes (GST) and customs duties. It is high time the budget exercise regains some respect, in tune with fast changing times.
Overhauling budget exercise