‘Pre-budget meeting in mid-Jan of no use’

Civil society groups allege the meeting in mid-Jan is so late that it can only influence the tax side of annual budget

trithesh

Trithesh Nandan | January 25, 2013



As the government conducts annual pre-budget consultation with different groups, the civil society groups have alleged that such consultations are of no use if held in mid-January.

By January 15, different ministries send its plan expenditure to finance ministry and the planning commission. “If the finance ministry consultation with civil society groups happens in mid-January, it is very difficult to influence plan expenditure of different line ministries like women and child development, ministry of social justice etc. important for implementation of different social sectors schemes,” said Subrat Das, executive director of New Delhi based think tank, Centre for Budget and Government Accountability (CBGA). (Note: Plan expenditures are estimated after discussions between each of the ministries concerned and the planning commission).

He said that there have been flaws in poor planning and coverage of social welfare programmes for the most the marginalised. Das said that the pre-budget consultations with civil society groups would be more effective if held in the month of October, when the budget formulation process begins in the government. “Few civil society groups are given chance to hold consultation with the finance ministry. More representation should come from pan-India civil society groups for such consultations. It should also take place in the month of October so that policies and budgets for disadvantaged sections of population are given adequate representations,” he said.

This year finance ministry’s pre-budget consultation with civil society groups took place on January 14. But finance minister P Chidambaram and his chief economic advisor Raghuram Rajan were absent. Revenue secretary Sumit Bose and secretary Arvind Mayaram, economic affairs led the meeting from their ministry with civil society bodies. Started in 2010 by then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the consultation has continued so far, where he used to actively participate in it.

However, the People’s Budget Initiative (PBI) – a coalition of 400 civil society organisations from 23 states demanded tracking and monitoring state and union budgets from a people’s perspective. “When one analyses the budgets committed to policy goals like health for all or universal access to healthcare, right to education, 100 days of employment under the MNREGA and 16 percent of plan budget for dalits, one finds that the resources needed to realise these goals have not been committed,” said Ravi Duggal, programme officer, International Budget Partnership (IBP).

The PBI also alleged that greater transparency and accountability for the proper utilisation of budgets is earmarked for Schedule Caste Sub Plan (SCSP). “Currently only 2.47 percent is allocated for SC schemes and 1.3 percent of ST schemes while the policy clearly states 16.2 percent and 8.2 percent for SCs and STs should be set apart for schemes and projects exclusively for the benefit of these communities,” said Paul Divakar, national convenor of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), which works for welfare of dalits. He alleged that there is large scale diversion of SCSP funds.

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