Before Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents her first budget on July 5, here is a look at budget-related trivia.
1) The first Indian budget ever was presented by James Wilson, a Scottish economist and politician. He did so as a ‘Finance Member of the India Council’. He was reportedly tasked with establishing a new tax structure in India as well as a new paper currency. However, the most interesting thing about Wilson is that he established The Economist, the weekly magazine which today has a circulation of over a million. Wilson started it as a newspaper. Unfortunately, Wilson died in India within months of presenting the budget. He died of dysentery in Calcutta on 11 August 1860.
2) Till 2000, the budget was presented at 5pm on the last working day of February. It was only in 2001 that finance minister Yashwant Sinha changed the practice and the budget began to be introduced at 11am. It is believed that 5pm was the earlier preferred time as it was convenient for the British Parliament (as it was morning for them).
3) The longest budget speech was delivered by finance minister Arun Jaitley in 2014. It was two and a half hours long and included a five-minute break.
4) The maximum number of budgets have been presented by Morarji Desai. He presented the budget every year from 1959 to 1963. His second spree was from 1967 to 1969. Apart from this, he presented the interim budget for 1962-63 and 1967-68.
5) On July 5, Nirmala Sitharaman would become the second woman to have presented a budget. The first was Indira Gandhi in 1970-71.
6) Before the budget finally goes to print, a ceremony is held in the ministry of finance, which is known as ‘the halwa ceremony’. Halwa, a traditional dessert is prepared and distributed to the staff of the ministry. It is after this that the printing of the budget, a very confidential operation, begins.
7) Every budget is important but few in the history of modern India come close to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s budget of 1991 in which India’s economy was liberalized.