Finance Minister (FM) Arun Jaitley has gone to the US for a regular medical check-up, but he will be back within a week. Sources in the government said he would present the interim Budget for the next fiscal year (2019-20) on February 1.
“As the FM is expected to be back by this weekend, no one has been given charge of the ministry,” said another official, adding that the ministers of state for finance were in charge. A source in the government said Jaitley left on Sunday night.
This is Jaitley’s first overseas visit since his kidney ailment was confirmed in April last year.
On Tuesday, he released a blog from the US, reiterating the marco-economic achievements of the Narendra Modi government.
“When Prime Minister Modi came to power, India was the 10th largest economy in GDP (gross domestic product) terms in the world. Presently [sic], the fifth, sixth and seventh economies namely the United Kingdom, France, and India are within a very narrow range,” Jaitley said.
“India, of course, is projected to grow next year at 7.5 per cent. This will conclusively ensure that India, at the end of the next financial year, could possibly be the fifth-largest economy in the world,” he said.
“Needless to say, India’s fiscal discipline during the past five years has been amongst the best as compared to any preceding period,” Jaitley added.
The FM said to sustain growth of the economy as well as the aspirations of its voters, a decisive mandate was required instead of a coalition government. “It is a pre-requisite that India needs a decisive leadership, consistency in policy direction, and a strong and stable government. An unworkable alliance with maverick leadership whose longevity is suspect can never achieve this.”
The 66-year old FM underwent a successful kidney transplant surgery in mid-May at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. He was on leave since April due to kidney-related problems and chest infection, and took charge of the finance and corporate affairs ministries in late August. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had held temporary charge.
However, since the Bharatiya Janata Party lost Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, there has been some speculation on what populist measures, such as massive tax sops, the central government might announce.
According to convention, direct tax proposals are not made in interim Budgets. But, nothing stops the government from doing so either.
It is not known if Jaitley’s latest check-up is related to the last surgery or earlier ailments, or neither.