Home Fact-Check Fact Check: No, the government did not 'fudge' revenue numbers in the union budget

Fact Check: No, the government did not ‘fudge’ revenue numbers in the union budget

There is absolutely no difference in numbers presented in the Economic Survey and the Budget.

There is no end to false, baseless allegations against the Modi government by a section of media and self-styled intellectuals using selective data. The latest example of the same is the allegation that there is a mismatch of revenue numbers of the central government in the union budget and the economic survey.

Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan went on to allege that government has fudged revenue numbers by ₹1.7 lakh crore. He was quoting a report by controversial journalist Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV, where it is alleged that the numbers do not match in the two documents produced by the same ministry in the same government.

In a report published on 9th July, NDTV had said that there is a mystery of ‘missing ₹1.7 lakh crore’ in India’s budget. The report by Jain is based on an article written by Rathin Roy, director of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, on Business Standard on July 6. Roy is also the member of Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. As the BS article is behind a paywall, we are using the NDTV article as a reference for everyone’s convenience.

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According to the report, Rathin Roy has detected a massive anomaly in the revenue estimates shown in the Economic Survey and the Budget presented by the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this month. Reportedly, the Budget shows government’s revenue earning as budget estimate, which is ₹17.3 lakh crore for the FY 2018-19, while the Economic Survey shows a ‘more accurate’ provisional account at ₹15.6 lakh crore. Thus, there is a mismatch of ₹1.7 lakh crore in revenue amount, a ‘shortfall’, according to the report.

But a cursory glance at both the document will show this is a mischievous baseless allegation, and there is absolutely no difference in numbers presented in the Economic Survey and the Budget.

Let’s have a look at the relevant data from both the documents.

The Revised Estimate for revenue receipts for the FY 2018-19 is 17,29,682 crore in the budget document, shown above.

Now, look at the receipt data from the Economic Survey given above. Here we can see that the numbers like actuals for 2017-18 (₹14,35,233 crore), budget and revised estimates for 2018-19 (₹17,25,738 and ₹17,29,682) match exactly with the numbers in the budget document. There is no difference in the numbers under the same columns in both documents.

But as we can see, the Economic Survey has an additional column which is not present in the budget, a PA, or Provisional Actual number. It is indeed a lesser amount, ₹15,63,170 crore, but the important fact is that it is a different data, which is not mentioned in the budget. What the Rathin Roy and Sreenivasan Jain did was compared this PA number in Economic Survey with the RE number of the budget, which is wrong and misleading. The Economic Survey already mentions the RE number, which was conveniently ignored by them.

Moreover, it is not that this Provisional Actual figure was introduced in this year’s Economic Survey, it was there in the earlier reports too. For example, here are the relevant pages from the Economic Survey of 2010-11, and the budget for 2011-12.

Economic Survey 2010-11

Budget 2010-11

If we see both the documents from earlier years, it becomes evident that the Provisional Actual numbers are always mentioned in the Economic Survey, but it is absent from the budget document. And, the PA always tends to be lower than the BE and RE numbers. Just because the PA and RE revenue numbers are different, it does not mean that there is a mismatch between budget and economic survey. The numbers under the same headings are the same in both the documents. And if the ‘mismatch’ means the government ‘fudged’ the numbers, then it was done by earlier governments also, which is, of course, a totally baseless allegation.

There is nothing new in this, but two different numbers were compared from the two documents to paint the government in a bad light.

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