Shortest, Longest, Most Iconic: Interesting Facts About Budget Speeches Over the Years
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be presenting her fifth Union Budget on Wednesday (February 1). She created the record for longest Budget speech when she presented the Union Budget 2020-21 on February 1, 2020. After speaking for 2 hours and 42 minutes straight, she had to cut short her speech as she felt unwell — with two pages still remaining! The total length of the text was 13,275 words. She requested the Speaker to consider the remaining part of the speech as read.
On that day, she broke her own record. Prior to this, the longest Budget speech by any Indian Fin Min was on July 5, 2019, by Sitharaman again — her maiden Budget speech, in fact — when she went on for 2 hours and 17 minutes. The 2021 Budget, when the government went paperless for the first time ever while presenting the Union Budget, replacing the ‘bahi katha’ with a tablet, Nirmala Sitharaman delivered her shortest Budget speech — 1 hour and 40 minutes (10,500 words).
Before Sitharaman’s 2019 feat, the longest Budget speech record was held by Jaswant Singh’s of two hours and 15 minutes in 2003.
In terms of word limit of speech’s text, Manmohan Singh created the record in 1991 under the Narasimha Rao government when he presented the momentous Budget that changed the face of the Indian economy. The speech had 18,650 words. While Dr Singh’s record is unbeaten, former Finance Minister late Arun Jaitley’s 2018 Budget speech came rather close — 18,604 words that he delivered in 1 hour and 49 minutes. Jaitley’s speeches also hold the record on the third, fourth and fifth spots for the longest Budget speeches. 18,122 words in 2015, 17,991 words in 2018, and 16,528 words while presenting the Union Budget in 2014 — the third, fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
While those are the longest speeches in terms of time taken and the content, did you know who gave the shortest Budget speech?
In 1977, former Finance Minister Hirubhai Muljibhai Patel presented the country’s smallest budget. That was the interim budget. It was introduced on March 28, 1977. The budget speech that year consisted of 800 words.
Some of the most iconic budget speeches are –
Carrot & Stick Budget: The Union budget presented by VP Singh for the Congress government on February 28, 1986, was the first step towards dismantling licence raj in India. It was called the ‘Carrot and Stick’ budget as it offered both rewards and punishment. It introduced MODVAT (Modified Value Added Tax) credit for lowering the cascading effect of tax that consumers had to pay while also launching an intense drive against smugglers, black marketers, and tax evaders.
Epochal Budget: Manmohan Singh’s landmark 1991 budget under the PV Narasimha Rao government that ended licence raj and began the era of economic liberalisation, is known as ‘Epochal Budget’. Presented at a time when India was on the brink of an economic collapse, it among other things slashed customs duty from 220 percent to 150 percent and took steps to promote exports.
Dream Budget: P Chidambaram in the 1997-98 budget used the Laffer Curve principle to lower tax rates to increase collections. He slashed the maximum marginal income tax rate for individuals from 40 percent to 30 percent and that for domestic companies to 35 percent besides unleashing a number of major tax reforms including voluntary disclosure of income schemes to recover black money. Referred to as the ‘Dream Budget’, it also slashed customs duty to 40 percent and simplified the excise duty structure.
Millennium Budget: Yashwant Sinha’s Millennium Budget in 2000 laid the road map for the growth of India’s Information Technology (IT) industry as it phased out incentives on software exporters and lowered customs duty on 21 items such as the computer and computer accessories.
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