After some dilly-dallying over the presentation of the Economic Survey with the interim Budget in February, the finance ministry has finally decided to table it just before the full Budget in July. The ministry’s economic division, which pens the Survey, was earlier contemplating whether there was a need to table it along with the Appropriation Bill (interim Budget) due to general elections next year. The division, which is currently headless in the absence of a chief economic advisor, sought Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s opinion on the matter and it was decided that keeping up with tradition, the Survey for 2013-14 should be tabled in July by the new government along with Budget 2014-15. At present, Economic Affairs Secretary Arvind Mayaram is handling additional charge of the Economic Division. Officials said there was a view in the finance ministry that the Survey could be tabled with the Appropriation Bill, but since the usual practice is to present it after the elections, the idea was dropped. “In line with the usual practice, it has been decided to table it after elections because the Economic Survey is not just an account of the last year but also gives an outlook for the next year. A government which is going cannot make futuristic statements,” said a finance ministry official. Due to elections in 2009, the Economic Survey for 2008-09 was presented on July 2, 2009, while the full Budget was tabled on July 6.
Again due to elections in 2004, the Survey for 2003-04 was tabled in Parliament on July 7, 2004, a day before the Budget. Besides, the Planning Commission suggested that it would not be a good move to present the Survey before the elections because of grim economic prospects. “It will be prudent not to release the Survey just before the 2014 general elections as it would expose the unsatisfactory economic conditions and open the door for criticism from the opposition,” said a Plan panel official, who did not wish to be identified. Also, the Budget session in February is likely to be a short one, allowing the government time to clear only the essential agenda like seeking Parliament authorisation to spend money through the Appropriation Bill till a full Budget is passed by the new government in July. However, the finance ministry has started the basic preparatory work on the Budget as well as the Survey. The preparations will help it quickly come up with the documents after the formation of the next government. The Revised Estimates for this year and the Budget Estimates for next year are being worked out, which will be unveiled in the interim Budget and later updated for the full Budget. As far as the Economic Survey is concerned, the background work will be done and kept ready.