This will be prompted by the retirement of Finance and Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia at the end of November 2019 being a year of the Lok Sabha election, the Budget — likely on February 1 — will be an interim one.
Business Standard has learnt from well-placed sources Adhia may not get an extension, nor has he expressed the willingness to seek one. It is accepted practice for the government to extend the tenure of secretaries in the finance ministry if their last day of service falls close to the Budget.
For example, former Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das was supposed to retire in February 2017, but his tenure was extended to May to oversee the post-budget process as well, which includes the passage of the Finance Bill.
Adhia, a 1981 batch Gujarat cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, is supposed to retire on November 30. The next bureaucrat in line to be designated finance secretary is Expenditure Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha, a 1982 batch Manipur-cadre officer. According to practice, the senior-most of the five secretaries in the finance ministry is designated finance secretary.
The buzz in bureaucratic circles is that Girish Chandra Murmu, a 1985 batch Gujarat-cadre officer and special secretary in the revenue department, could be the next revenue secretary. Hence, Jaitley will go to the interim Budget 2019-20 with a new revenue secretary, the person responsible for setting and meeting tax targets, including the goods and service tax, and in whose tenure the long-pending Direct Tax Code could to see the light of day in some form. But that isn’t the only expected change.
The office of the chief economic advisor (CEA) has been lying vacant since August 27, when Arvind Subramanian cut short his extended tenure and went back to academia in the United States.
A search panel, led by former Reserve Bank of India governor and former CEA Bimal Jalan, has shortlisted some candidates after an extensive round of interviews. There will be more interviews in the coming days to narrow the field even further.
The panel will recommend its choice to the government. The Appointments Committee of Cabinet, headed by the prime minister, will need to give the final approval for the appointment. The government is keen to have a new CEA in place before the Budget, as the Economic Survey, tabled in Parliament a day before the Budget, is drafted by the CEA and his team.
The other members of the core budget-making team are expected to remain unchanged. These include Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar and DIPAM (Department of Investment and Public Asset Management) Secretary Atanu Chakraborty.
Garg is a 1983 batch Rajasthan-cadre officer, Kumar is from the 1984 batch Jharkhand batch, while Chakraborty belongs to the 1985 Gujarat batch.
The budget division is under Garg’s department and hence the main work of preparing the documents will be under his supervision, including drafting Jaitley’s speech.
That apart, the tax chiefs will stay on. Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman Sushil Chandra will serve his tenure, which has been extended by a year, till the end of May 2019. Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs Chairman S Ramesh will also be part of the budget process.
The team also includes Principal Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal.