PM Modi chairs high-profile pre-budget meet without FM

PM Modi chairs high-profile pre-budget meet without FM

PM Modi during a meeting with business stalwarts (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday chaired a high-profile pre-budget meeting in which ideas for a bold and forward-looking budget were presented amid a host of cabinet ministers and high profile NITI Aayog officials, but Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was not present.

The Opposition Congress was quick to take a jibe at the prime minister and said, "Here's a suggestion, next budget meeting, consider inviting the Finance Minister."

The government sources said the finance minister was busy with another budget-related meeting with BJP organisational representatives.

This is the first year in the BJP's six-years rule since 2014, that the prime minister has been participating so actively in the budget-making process.

According to sources in the government, Modi has been working overtime on budget, for 9 to 10 hours daily, sometimes even skipping his lunch.

On a day-to-day basis, the prime minister meets three to four groups of stakeholders, each consisting of 10-12 people from different sectors such as exports, industry, MSME, energy and other infrastructure sectors.

Most of these meetings are being chaired by the prime minister without any other minister or officials, sources said.

Sitharaman's maiden budget in July last year was criticised for not having any landmark announcements to make it look like a “different budget”. Most of her budget proposals were also reversed in due course, including the withdrawal of higher taxes for foreign and domestic investors.

The prime minister, who is keen on giving a directional shift to the economy through this year budget, has also been talking on ideas for a $5-trillion economy with stakeholders during his meetings, sources said.

In Thursday's meeting, experts from various sectors, entrepreneurs, economists, bankers and NITI Aayog officials exchanged their views about the current state of the economy and what needs to be altered in the Union Budget to be presented on February 1 in order to give one final push to the economy, which is forecast to end 2019-20 with the slowest growth in the past 11 years.

Ideas were also exchanged by Home Minister Amit Shah, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Minister Amit Shah, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal besides NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, CEO Amitabh Kant in the presence of the prime minister.

The prime minister has conducted elaborate meetings with over 150 experts and economists till now for inputs on the Budget. Almost all of them have suggested cuts in personal income tax in line with that of corporate tax. This means lowering income tax rates but ending all exemptions.

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