New Delhi: The Union Budget 2023-24 allocation to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) went up by 4.6 per cent to Rs 18,050 crore from Rs 17,250 crore of the previous financial year, but it was far less than the recommendations made two months ago by a parliamentary panel.
In December 2022, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs chaired by BJP MP P P Chaudhary recommended more than doubling the budget of the foreign ministry from 0.44 per cent to 1 per cent of the government’s overall budget.
The Committee observed that MEA’s budgetary allocation of Rs 17,250 crore for FY23 was 4.98 per cent less than the budget estimates for FY22 and 7.81 per cent more than revised estimates for FY22.
“Despite an increase in the overall budget allocation of the Government of India (GoI), the allocation made to MEA in percentage terms has witnessed a downward turn during the last four years and during 2022-23 it is only 0.44 per cent of the overall Budget,” its report noted.
The panel said it did not find such allocation in “consonance with the country’s rising aspirations and growing global stature”.
“The Committee, therefore, would like that the allocations made to MEA should be increased substantially and be brought at least at the level of one per cent of GoI’s overall Budget every year,” it added.
Also Read: Budget 2023: Development aid for war-torn Afghanistan unchanged, cuts for Sri Lanka & Myanmar
Chaudhary said Budget 2023’s allocation of Rs 18,050 crore to the MEA was “satisfactory”, arguing that it is higher than revised estimate figures in FY23 and higher than budget estimates 6-7 years ago.
“The allocation is satisfactory. It is 6.3 per cent higher than revised estimates for FY23 which was Rs 16,973 crore and roughly 54 per cent higher than budget estimates in FY14,” he told ThePrint over phone.
The budget allocation is more or less in line with the MEA’s demand for grants which stood at Rs 18,055 crore.
However, the parliamentary panel had noted that the reason for the shrinking gap between allocation and the foreign ministry’s demands over the last few years is because the MEA has made an effort to lower its demands.
The Committee stated that revised estimates for FY22 of Rs 16,000 crore was 87.79 per cent of MEA’s demand and budget estimate for FY23 of Rs 17,250 crore was 83.30 per cent of the ministry’s demand.
“In terms of numbers, the reduction in the gap has been generous. However, at a substantive level it appears that the improvement is due to lower demand sought by MEA and not better allocation given by the Government,” the panel stated.
The Committee, therefore, urged the MEA to make projections based on India’s “widening and deepening engagement with the world”.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
Also Read: Budget 2023: Tourism promotion in ‘mission mode’ — Unity Malls, ‘package’ development of 50 sites