Finance Ministry’s Budget-Making Team Short Of Two Key Officials
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and MoS Anurag Thakur arrive at Parliament to present the Union Budget 2019-20, in New Delhi. (Source: PTI) 

Finance Ministry’s Budget-Making Team Short Of Two Key Officials

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The budget-making team of the Finance Ministry is short of two key officials, including a full-time expenditure secretary, as the preparation for the second budget of Modi 2.0 government has shifted into top gear.

The budget for 2020-21, likely to be presented on Feb. 1, is keenly awaited for the expected second wave of structural reforms for pulling out the economy from its over six-year low growth of 4.5 percent.

In addition to expenditure secretary, the position of joint secretary, one of the key officials in the entire Budget-making process, is also vacant for almost three months.

The post of Expenditure Secretary fell vacant after the appointment of GC Murmu as the first lieutenant governor of the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Murmu relinquished the post of Expenditure Secretary on Oct. 29 and subsequently, the additional charge of the Department of Expenditure was given to Atanu Chakraborty.

Chakraborty, a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, is Secretary Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry.

After over one year stint in the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, Chakraborty was appointed Economic Affairs Secretary in July this year in a major bureaucratic reshuffle.

The finance ministry kick-started the exercise to prepare the annual budget for 2020-21 from Oct. 14 with pre-Budget/RE (Revised Estimate) meetings. The series of meetings with different departments and ministries concluded last month.

The Budget Estimates for 2020-21 are provisionally finalised after the Expenditure Secretary completes discussions with other secretaries and financial advisers.

The second budget of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is considered to be crucial as it will come in against the backdrop of a slowdown in the economy.

The Reserve Bank in its monetary policy last week downgraded the growth forecast for 2019-20 to 5 percent from the earlier projection of 6.1 percent.

To beat the slowdown, the Finance Minister has said reforms to boost the economy would continue and also hinted at tweaking personal income tax rates in the upcoming Budget.

The government is examining the direct tax code report concerning Personal Income Tax. It is considering the rationalisation of the personal income tax rate for boosting consumption.

Following the reduction in corporate tax in September, there has been a growing demand for a slash in the personal income tax to buttress consumption.

In the biggest reduction in 28 years, the government in September slashed corporate tax rates up to 10 percentage points as it looked to pull the economy out of a six-year low growth with a Rs 1.45 lakh crore tax break.

Base corporate tax for existing companies has been reduced to 22 percent from 30 percent, and to 15 percent from 25 percent for new manufacturing firms incorporated after Oct. 1, 2019, and starting operations before March 31, 2023.

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