Budget 2024: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is set to make history by presenting her sixth consecutive budget on February 1, matching the record held by former Prime Minister Morarji Desai.
Sitharaman, the first full-time woman finance minister in India, has presented five full budgets since July 2019 and is now preparing to present an interim or vote-on-account budget. This accomplishment will surpass the records of her predecessors, including Manmohan Singh, Arun Jaitley, P Chidambaram, and Yashwant Sinha, who presented five budgets in a row.
Morarji Desai, during his tenure as finance minister, presented five annual budgets and one interim budget between 1959 and 1964. The upcoming interim budget for 2024-25, to be presented by Sitharaman, will be a vote-on-account authorising the government to spend certain sums of money until a new government is formed after the upcoming general elections in April-May.
Given the proximity of the elections, Sitharaman’s interim budget is not expected to contain major policy changes. During an industry event last month, Sitharaman ruled out any “spectacular announcement,” emphasising that it would primarily be a vote-on-account before the general elections. A vote-on-account, once approved by Parliament, allows the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India on a pro-rata basis to meet expenditure for the April-July period.
The new government, likely to be formed around June, will then present the final budget for 2024-25 in July. Although interim budgets typically do not include major policy announcements, the government retains the flexibility to address urgent economic issues.
Sitharaman’s tenure as finance minister began after the 2019 general elections, making her the second woman to present the budget after Indira Gandhi. She has implemented various policy measures to navigate the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and under her leadership, India has maintained its position as the fastest-growing major economy.
India aims to become a USD 5 trillion economy by 2027-28 and a USD 30 trillion economy by 2047. Sitharaman is expected to focus on measures to boost the rural sector, especially as the growth rate in the agriculture sector is projected to decelerate in the current fiscal year. While major announcements may be deferred until after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the budget is anticipated to address immediate fiscal needs and lay the groundwork for future economic growth.
(With PTI inputs)