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How to Read the Union Budget

This note provides brief guide on how the budget papers are organised, and how to find the exact information that a reader wants (expenditure on a particular scheme of interest, or total budget allocation of a ministry, for instance). For note on the Budget process, click here.

The Finance Minister presents an annual statement to Parliament of how much money the central government expects to raise in the next financial year and how it plans to spend that money. The documents also contain information on how much money was budgeted for various schemes or ministries in the past year, and an estimate of how much it is likely to spend by the end of the current financial year. These statements, taken together, are called the union budget. There are a number of separate documents which comprise the budget papers. They can seem confusing and technical, and the same information can often be found in different documents.

The Budget papers are accompanied with a ‘Key to the Budget Documents’ (leaf green in colour) which gives much more detailed information on the budget papers.

This note is organised as


Part I – How are the budget documents organised?

Part II – What do certain terms (“plan expenditure”, “revenue expenditure” etc) found across the budget documents, mean?

Part III – Which document contains the information I need?


Part I – How are the budget documents organised?

While there are as many as fourteen separate documents (coloured differently!), they can be classified into just four broad categories (see Table 1). Within each category, there are both colour-coded and plain documents. The plain documents are required to be presented to Parliament (and in some cases, voted on) under the provisions of the Constitution or under the FRBM Act. The colour-coded documents are explanatory in nature and are intended to present budget information in more convenient ways. Finally, almost all information in all documents is presented in a comparative format, with amounts budgeted for the next financial year, for each category or type of expenditure, shown along with the expenditure budgeted for the previous year and the amount actually expected to spent. This helps readers understand how the governments expenditure (or taxation priorities) are changing over time.

Category: Bank

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