This was the longest Budget speech by any finance minister. (Photo Credit: IANS Photo)
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday cut short her Budget speech in Lok Sabha as she felt unwell after speaking for a record 160 minutes. Sitharaman had only two pages of her Budget speech unread when she appeared uneasy and was seen wiping sweat from her forehead. She was offered candies by her ministerial colleagues, but that did not help and she opted to discontinue the speech asking Speaker Om Birla to consider the remaining part of her speech as read. This was the longest Budget speech by any finance minister. Sitharaman, 60, broke her own record of a 2-hour-17- minute-long maiden Budget speech in July 2019.
The Finance Minister later laid budget documents and demand for grants for the next financial year in Rajya Sabha. The Upper House, which met around 1:30 pm for tabling of budget documents, was adjourned as her speech was still continuing in Lok Sabha.
The Rajya Sabha met again at 1:55 pm but was again adjourned for 10 minutes as Sitharaman reached late. When she arrived in the upper house, many members approached her and were seen asking her wellbeing. After laying of papers, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the House till Monday.
Fiscal Deficit Worry
Meanwhile, the government on Saturday raised fiscal deficit target to 3.8 per cent of the GDP from 3.3 per cent pegged earlier for 2019-20 due to revenue shortage. "We estimate a fiscal deficit of 3.8 per cent in RE (revised estimate) 2019-20 and 3.5 per cent for BE (budget estimate) 2020-21. This estimation is consistent with Government's abiding commitment to macroeconomic stability," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said while presenting Budget 2020-21. The government has utilised 'escape clause' under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act which provides it leeway for relaxation of fiscal deficit roadmap during time of stress.
"Section 4 (2) of the FRBM Act provides for a trigger mechanism for a deviation from the estimated fiscal deficit on account of structural reforms in the economy with unanticipated fiscal implications. Therefore, I have taken a deviation of 0.5 per cent, consistent with Section 4(3) of FRBM Act, both for RE 2019-20 and BE 2020-21," she said. The 'escape clause' allows the government to breach its fiscal deficit target by 0.5 percentage points at times of severe stress in the economy, including periods of structural change and those when growth falls sharply.
"Accordingly, the return path is being laid before Parliament as a part of Medium Term Fiscal Policy cum Strategy Statement. This fiscal path commits us to the path of fiscal consolidation without compromising the needs of investment out of public funds," she said.