History and Economy Mixed in India’s 2012 Budget Speech

By Andrew Ivey | Public Speaking

Mar 14
Budget speech by Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Mukherjee's Budget speech is planned for March 16th

It’s a case of enduring tradition and custom for India’s budget speech this year.

India’s financial Budget for the next year 2012-2013 will be presented by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on March 16. It’s normally the case that the budget speech is given on the last day of February ready for the budget to be ratified in time for 1st April. But this time there’s a delay because of elections in five State assemblies.

The traditions and characteristics of the Indian budget speech resonate with those of the palace of Westminster. They both concern the government’s outlook for the economy. And they both present plans for income and expenditure.

Until 2000 the speech to the Lok Sabha was given at 5pm local time–a time set in colonial times when India’s budget speech and that of the United Kingdom were synchronised. The Indian budget speech is now given at a more manageable 11 a.m.

Following tradition British chancellors carried their budgets to Parliament in the same document box used by William Gladstone in 1860, in the second of his four stints as Chancellor of the Exchequer. His very battered red document box was eventually retired in 2010. A replica, made by the same makers as the original, London firm Barrow and Gale, has taken its place.

In India the budget speech is also traditionally carried to the Lower House in a briefcase, but there’s no tradition of the same case being passed from Minister to Minister. The incumbent, Pranab Mukherjee, has used two different briefcases for his budget speeches.

Traditionally Indian budget speeches tend to be shorter than their British equivalents. But they could be shorter still. Indira Gandhi is supposed to have said, on the occasion of Pranab Mukherjee’s first budget speech as Finance Minister:

The shortest finance minister has delivered the longest budget speech.

History doesn’t record his reply.

A modern maximum of two hours could still be reached. But we can only hope that the day of the three or four hour budget speech is long gone. Even tradition has its limits.

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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK. Andrew Ivey on Google+