Explained: Why Centre's Reported Finances in the Economic Survey and Budget Differ

The Union Budget replicates revised estimates reported in the interim Budget, not the updated figures for 2018-19 from the Controller General of Accounts.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for the financial year 2019-20 in parliament on July 5, 2019. In the 2019-20 budget, the government presented the estimates of its expenditure and receipts for the year 2019-20. The Budget also gave an account of how much money the government raised or spent in 2017-18. In addition, the Budget also presented the revised estimates made by the government for the year 2018-19 in comparison to the estimates it had given to parliament in the previous year’s Budget.

What are revised estimates?

Some of the estimates made by the government might change during the course of the year. For instance, once the year gets underway, some ministries may need more funds than what was actually allocated to them in the Budget, or the receipts expected from certain sources might change. Such deviations from the Budget estimates get reflected in the figures released by the government at later stages as part of the subsequent Budgets. Once the year ends, the actual numbers are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), post which they are presented to parliament with the upcoming Budget, i.e. two years after the estimates are made.

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For instance, estimates for the year 2018-19 were presented as part of the 2018-19 Budget in February 2018. In the 2019-20 interim Budget presented in February 2019 (ten months after the financial year 2018-19 got underway), the government revised these estimates based on the actual receipts and expenditure accounted so far during the year and incorporated estimates for the remaining two months.

The actual receipts and expenditure accounts of the Central government are maintained by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA), Ministry of Finance on a monthly basis. In addition to the monthly accounts, the CGA also publishes the provisional unaudited figures for the financial year by the end of the month of May. Once these provisional figures are audited by the CAG, they are presented as actuals in next year’s budget. The CGA reported the figures for 2018-19 on May 31, 2019. The Economic Survey 2018-19 presented on July 4, 2019 uses these figures.

The Budget presented on July 5 replicates the revised estimates reported as part of the interim Budget (February 1, 2019). Thus, it did not take into account the updated figures for the year 2018-19 from the CGA.

Table 1 gives a comparison of the 2018-19 revised estimates presented by the Central government in the budget with the provisional unaudited figures maintained by the CGA for the year 2018-19.

The 2018-19 provisional figures for revenue receipts is Rs 15,63,170 crore, which is Rs 1,66,512 crore less than the revised estimates. This is largely due to Rs 1,67,455 crore shortfall in the Centre’s net tax revenue between the revised estimates and the provisional estimates (Table 2).

Major taxes which see a shortfall between the gross tax revenue presented in the revised estimates vis-à-vis the provisional figures are income tax (Rs 67,346 crore) and GST (Rs 59,930 crore). Non-tax revenue and disinvestment receipts as per the provisional figures are higher than the revised estimates.

While the provisional figures show a considerable decrease in receipts (Rs 1,56,782 crore) as compared to the revised estimates, fiscal deficit has not shown a comparable increase. Fiscal deficit is estimated to be Rs 10,969 crore higher than the revised estimates as per the provisional accounts.

On the expenditure side, the total expenditure as per the provisional figures show a decrease of Rs 1,45,813 crore as compared to the revised estimates. Certain ministries and expenditure items have seen a decrease in expenditure as compared to the revised estimates made by the government. As per the provisional accounts, the expenditure of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, food and public distribution are Rs 22,133 crore and Rs 70,712 crore lower than the revised estimates, respectively. The decrease in the ministries’ expenditure as a percentage of the revised estimates are 29% and 39%, respectively. The food subsidy according to CGA was Rs 1,01,904 crore, which was Rs 69,394 crore lower than the revised estimates for the year 2018-19 given in the budget documents.

This article was originally published on PRS India’s blog.