The Union cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday to consider a proposal to bring forward the budget presentation to 1 February and merge it with the railway budget, several news reports said.
The Narendra Modi government has been mulling over the idea for some time of ending the colonial practice of presenting the budget on the last day of February. Early presentation of the budget will give the government enough time to allocate funds to departments for the new financial year from 1 April, instead of May, by when it happens now as the legislative process related to budget making gets completed only by then. Bringing the budget forward will also eliminate the need to hold a vote on account to meet government expenses during this intervening period.
Interestingly though, a report in the Business Standard says that the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has declined to share numbers on advanced budget estimates with the finance ministry by the first week of January. The report says that this could potentially lead to an awkward situation in which advanced figures are released after the budget is presented, as the data is normally only released by early February.
Even as it moves to merge the railway budget, the government is looking to overhaul the national transporter. The Economic Times reports that Modi is likely to chair a three-day brainstorming meeting on the railways in November which will be attended by all zonal officials. The report says that the railway ministry has sent the Prime Minister’s Office a list of eight broad segments that will be taken up during the meeting, which could be held during 25-27 November.
Meanwhile, the finance ministry is looking to sort out taxation issues faced by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), The Economic Times says in a separate report. As many as 35 FPIs including Citigroup, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have met the government over simplifying taxation issues.
A Mint report details how foreign institutional investors (FIIs) are trying to hedge their risks by opting for out-of-the-money put options ahead of a meeting by the US Federal Reserve, which will take a call on raising interest rates. FIIs on Tuesday turned net sellers, after being net buyers for three previous consecutive trading sessions.
On Wednesday, the Bank of Japan kept the 0.1% negative interest rate on reserves that lenders park with the central bank but overhauled its stimulus programme and adopted a target for long-term interest rates.
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