Although it is the Union Finance Minister who presents the Budget in Parliament, it is his core team of civil servants that undertake the task of designing it.
Tasked with steering the economy in an uncertain global environment and shepherding in second-generation reforms, this team works tirelessly to prepare one of the most well-guarded documents in the country.
Such is the secrecy of the Union Budget-making process that each member of this team is completely out of communication with the outside world (including family) till the Budget gets presented in the Parliament by the Finance Minister.
The use of fixed-line and mobile phones are absolutely banned as the officials work round the clock in the quarantine zone inside the North Block building that houses the Ministry of Finance! The Budget will be presented on February 1.
While all eyes will be on the upcoming government schemes and announcements, not many know about the team that has drafted the Union Budget 2018. Here’s a look at the key players involved in the preparation of this year’s budget.
1. Dr Hasmukh Adhia, Finance Secretary & Revenue Secretary
A 1981 batch IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer of Gujarat cadre, Adhia is in charge of finance ministry’s expenditure department. He keeps a balance between the expectations of ministries and departments seeking larger allocations and the fiscal deficit goals of the government. Given the government’s commitment to rein in fiscal deficit and push public spending to boost growth, his job is a tough one. As Revenue Secretary, he is at the forefront of tax proposals in the Budget and plays an important role in explaining the rationale behind the proposals.
2. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs
A 1983 batch IAS officer of Rajasthan cadre, Subhash Chandra Garg is well-versed with the workings of the budget. As the economic affairs secretary, he must deliver a problem-free budget that has enough reforms to meet expectations. In the Union Budget 2018, his main task is to incorporate ideas that can put the economy back on track post demonetisation and boost growth in the private sector.
3. Neeraj Kumar Gupta, Secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management
As the secretary of Investment and Public Asset Management, Neeraj Kumar Gupta plays a key role in fulfilling the government’s agenda of strategic asset sales. This involves winding up loss-making companies, monetizing stakes held through the Specified Undertaking of the Unit Trust of India and pushing for the listing of profitable subsidiaries of state-run companies.
In 2016, Gupta managed to prevail on cash-rich companies to go for buybacks, which fetched the government Rs 15,982 crore. In the Union Budget 2018, his main task is to leverage assets of state-run enterprises, mobilise resources through disinvestment and attract fresh investments.
4. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor
Formerly a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and at the Center for Global Development, Arvind Subramanian is a development economist who worked closely with Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan when both were at the International Monetary Fund.
As the chief economic adviser, his main job is to maintain macroeconomic stability, create favourable conditions for investment and draft the annual Economic Survey – a document on the state of the economy that underpins the drafting of the Budget.
5. Rajiv Kumar, Secretary, Department of Financial Services
Rajiv Kumar, a 1984 batch IAS officer of Jharkhand cadre, will be tasked with finding additional resources to meet the capital needs of banks and lessen their burden while working towards the government’s dream of a cashless economy.
6. Prashant Goyal, Joint Secretary, Budget
A 1993-Union territory cadre IAS officer, Prashant Goyal’s work as a joint secretary (Budget) is the key piece in the Centre’s Budget-making exercise. It is under his guidelines that the facts are collected and reviewed following which the script of the budget is written. He works in connection with the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and organises core team discussions on broad overall revenues, new proposals to raise revenue, ways to raise more funds, the levels of deficits, and related numbers.