We have inherited the tradition of secrecy about the budget from Britain were also the system has been strongly attacked by eminent economists and political scientists including Peter Jay. Sir Richard Clarke, who was the originating genius of nearly every important development in the British budgeting techniques during the last two decades, has spoken out about the abuse of budget secrecy: “The problems of long-term tax policy should surely be debated openly with the facts on the table. In my opinion, all governments should have just the same duty to publish their expenditure policy. Indeed, this obligation to publish taxation policy is really essential for the control of public expenditure in order to get realistic taxation implications.” Realising that democracy flourishes best on the principles of open government, more and more democracies are having an open public debate on budget proposals before introducing the appropriate Bill in the legislature. In the United States the budget is conveyed in a message by the President to the Congress, which comes well in advance of the date when the Bill is introduced in the Congress. In Finland the Parliament and the people are already discussing in June the tentative budget proposals which are to be introduced in the Finnish Parliament in September. Every budget contains a cartload of figures in black and white - but the dark figures represent the myriad lights and shades of India’s life, the contrasting tones of poverty and wealth, and of bread so dear and flesh and blood so cheap, the deep tints of adventure and enterprise and man’s ageless struggle for a brighter morning. The Union budget should not be an annual scourge but a part of presentation of annual accounts of a partnership between the Government and the people. That partnership would work much better when the nonsensical secrecy is replaced by openness and public consultations, resulting in fair laws and the people’s acceptance of their moral duty to pay.
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