All eyes are on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as she delivers the ninth consecutive budget for the NDA government in the backdrop of unprecedented economic slowdown owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Budget 2021 will be presented next week, but do you know when the first-ever Budget for India was presented and by whom?
A Scotsman named James Wilson created India’s first budget in 1860. He came to India in 1859 when the British government here was under stress due to the Sepoy Mutiny and aftermath of the revolt of 1857. Wilson had a deep understanding of markets and business and was seen as someone who could help the establishment out of their precarious financial situation.
“He [Wilson] introduced for the first time in India a financial budget framed upon the English model – inspired the public mind with fresh confidence – brought together the threads of finance which had been broken and scattered by a military and political convulsion – stimulated the operations of the Military Finance Commission to review the numerous branches of civil expenditure – reviewed the existing system of audit and account – besides discharging the multifarious duties devolving on a finance minister and a member of the general government,” according to the book Financial Foundations of the British Raj.
Wilson was the creator of the Income Tax Act, which is now the most important revenue source for the government. However, when the move was implemented, it was severely criticised. He was of the opinion that since the British government was helping Indians run their businesses in a safe environment, it deserved to charge a fee in the form of income tax.
Wilson was the founder of what later became the banking major Standard Chartered Bank, and also the magazine The Economist. He was a member of Viceroy Lord Canning’s council in undivided India, and also a Member of the British Parliament. Wilson was also the Finance Secretary to the UK Treasury and Vice President of the Board of Trade.