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All the Arun Jaitley's mandarins

Saturday, 28 June 2014 - 7:20am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Officials of finance and commerce ministries are burning the proverbial midnight oil for making the budget a success

When finance minister Arun Jaitley committed he would send a letter to Swiss authorities demanding sharing the information on Indian black money stashed in banks there, the office of revenue secretary Shaktikanta Das swung into action.

Within hours, Das compiled the letter to be sent to the Switzerland's Federal Department of Finance and Jaitley signed it. No wonder, the 1980 batch Tamil Nadu cadre official is the core member, along with several others in Jaitley's budget team.

Both Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the North Block are abuzz in preparation for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's first general budget to be presented on July 10. Two teams have been formed to oversee the budget preparations, according to sources close to the development. The first one being the political team comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his economic advisory council chairman C Rangarajan, finance minister Arun Jaitley and minister of state for finance Nirmala Sitharaman.

The second team is the official-level team, led by Das and having key secretaries in the various departments of the finance ministry such as economic affairs, banking, and disinvestment.

Meanwhile, the team of newly-appointed advisor to the finance ministry, Ila Patnaik is overseeing the preparation of the Economic Survey, which will be presented a day before the budget. Patnaik has served as professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

Das was roped in as the revenue secretary on June 14. He was earlier serving as the secretary in the ministry of fertilisers. He replaced Rajiv Takru, who has been asked to take over as secretary in the
ministry of development of the North Eastern region. Das is not new to the budget-making process, having served joint secretary, additional secretary and special secretary in the finance ministry between 2008 and 2013. His colleagues say at a time when the government is looking at revitalising the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), it is the best time to have him given his vast experience in the sector. As an industry secretary in Tamil Nadu, Das accelerated the growth of the SEZs in the state, which has most such successful zones.

"There are a lot of talks on tax incentives on the minimum alternate tax, and dividend distribution tax front. SEZs are likely to get a reprieve in the upcoming budget," said a finance ministry official.

PMEAC chairman C Rangarajan too has held several meetings with the top officials in the finance and commerce ministries, and briefed them on the priorities they need to keep in mind while formulating the budget. "Growth with equity is the key guiding principle from the PMO," said the official. Rangarajan has emphasised that the domestic savings rate must pick up and the productivity of capital should be improved.

Expenditure secretary Ratan P Watal is the another key official. He has been entrusted with the job of rationalising the centrally sponsored schemes and suggest ways in which the Plan and non-Plan expenditure of the current financial year be worked out, without putting much pressure on the fiscal resources. Another headache that expenditure secretary has to handle is the unpaid bills carried forward by the UPA government from the last financial year.

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