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Modi government committed to reforms, technology, and transparency: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

May 27, 2024 4:34 PM IST

reforms | Nirmala Sitharaman | Technology | Lok Sabha Polls

As the Lok Sabha elections draw closer to their final phase on June 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday highlighted the Modi government’s dedication to reforms, cutting-edge technology, and transparency to build a developed India.
 
In a series of posts on social media platform X, Sitharaman assured that, if re-elected, the government will continue to “maximize the value and impact” of hard-earned taxpayer money, ensuring it is put to the best possible use for the benefit of all.
 
She emphasized that several expenditure reforms have helped save interest costs while building transparency and efficiency in treasury management.
 
The Union government manages 108 Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) through states and UT governments, with a budget of approximately Rs 5.01 lakh crore for 2024-25 and Rs 4.76 lakh crore for 2023-24.
 
“…Our government has reshaped the budget from a mere record of expenditures into a strategic blueprint for equitable development,” Sitharaman said.
 
The budgets are characterized by fiscal prudence, transparency, and inclusiveness, ensuring investments in social development and infrastructure, she said.
 
“We make judicious and efficient use of every rupee collected from our taxpayers and give them a transparent picture of public finances. Various historic decisions and reforms have been taken by our government to strengthen and bring transparency to the Budgetary process and practices,” Sitharaman said.
 
Sitharaman highlighted the advancement of the budget cycle to February 1 since 2017-18. 
 
“Now, the entire budgetary exercise, including the legislative process, is completed well before the start of the financial year. This has improved administrative efficiency and delivery of schemes as ministries have the full budget available from the beginning of the financial year – 1 April,” she said.
 
This has also empowered the state governments, which used to present the Budget earlier than the Centre. She said states are now able to plan their budgets better as they are now aware of details of the Centre’s fiscal plan for the upcoming year.
 
“This reform helps the state governments plan their project financing, counterpart funding, implementation of central projects, and borrowing requirements well in advance.”
 
Sitharaman also pointed out the merger of the Rail Budget with the General Budget.
 
“The number of Demands for Grants operated by Railways has been reduced from 16 to one, and appropriation for Railways is part of the main Appropriation Bill,” she said, explaining the importance of the merger.
 
Sitharaman said that the Modi government has prioritized transparency in its budgeting practices and numbers.
 
“This starkly contrasts with the Congress-led UPA government’s repetitive practice of hiding the deficits through off-budget borrowings and issuance of ‘Oil Bonds’, which somewhat covertly shifted the fiscal burden to future generations,” she said, targeting the principal Opposition party.
 
Under UPA, she alleged that standard fiscal practices were routinely changed to make Budget numbers look favourable.
 
“Countries with transparent budgets are often viewed more favourably by international bodies such as the IMF and World Bank. This can lead to improved global trust,” she added.
 
Despite the increase in food subsidy allocations after COVID-19, food subsidy is being provided transparently through the budget, she said. In 2020-21, the government repaid all outstanding loans provided to FCI in lieu of food subsidy by providing additional budgetary support.
 
Budget allocations of key infra-focussed ministries — Road Transport and Highways and Railways — have been significantly enhanced from 2022-23 and 2023-24, respectively, thereby reducing their dependence on market borrowings.
 
Sitharaman also spoke about the rationalization of Supplementary Demand for Grants.
 
Previously, three Supplementary Demands for Grants were presented to Parliament during a financial year to seek additional appropriations or make significant reallocations within the appropriations already granted in the regular budget. However, since 2022-23, the number of Supplementary Demands for Grants has been limited to two, presented during the Winter and Budget Sessions.
 
“This has made substantive improvements in the process of budget estimation and improved financial discipline,” Sitharaman said.
 
Regarding the Contingency Fund of India, Sitharaman highlighted that the government increased the corpus from Rs 500 crore to Rs 30,000 crore with the approval of Parliament in 2021-22. This fund is a mechanism provided by the Constitution to facilitate the Centre in meeting unforeseen expenditures when Parliament is not in session.
 
The corpus of this fund had remained at Rs 500 crore since 2005-06, despite a significant increase in the budget over the years. “The problem of a low corpus was felt acutely during Covid-19 when the Parliament couldn’t meet and conduct business,” Sitharaman said.
 
Various expenditure reforms have also contributed to saving interest costs while promoting transparency and efficiency in treasury management. This is crucial as it reduces the wastage of the country’s resources and ensures that every rupee collected from taxpayers is utilized effectively, Sitharaman said.
 
 
 
(With ANI input)

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