All eyes are on Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal as he declares the budget for the fiscal year 2019-2020. Accompanying him are the MPs and also a briefcase.
Does the briefcase really contain our entire economy? Not really, but the tradition began in 1860 when the British Chancellor William Ewart Gladstone entered the Queen’s premises in 1860 with a red leather bag with the Royal emblem embellished in gold which held all the budgetary paper works.
Today, finance ministers in many countries carry a leather bag or a briefcase with them on the budget day. And, interestingly, the word budget was derived from French bougette, which means leather bags.
They also experiment with leather bags of different colours and shades other than red and usually have no emblems.
Budget day is significant for both a nation and its citizens all over the world. It is the day when the government announces its plans for the coming year.
As important a day it is, the atmosphere is made more festive by following some quirky traditions by finance ministers in many countries.
When it comes to fun facts about the budget, the UK has many. For example, only the chancellor can drink alcohol in the chamber. Winston Churchill drank brandy while Selwyn Lloyd sipped whiskey and water.
These days some chancellors drink plain water and so does our finance minister.
In 1947, Chancellor Hugh Dalton unknowingly leaked some major budget decisions to a journalist which ultimately led to his resignation.
The Queen’s coronation was so important that during his speech in 1953, Budget Chancellor RA Butler announced that sugar ration would be increased so that the nation could contribute to the cakes needed for it!
Other facts include Tory Iain Macleod’s death in 1970 who is the only chancellor of the UK who died before delivering his budget speech.
In India, the printing of budget papers begins with “halwa ceremony” because eating sweet is believed to be auspicious.
This ceremony also marks a quarantine period for budget officials who remain isolated from their families and even the Internet until the budget declaration day.
Some other traditions are no longer followed in India but they sound interesting. For example, during British rule, the budget was declared on the last day of February and sharp at 5 pm.
In 1999, this tradition was broken by the then finance minister Arun Jaitley who declared budget at 11 am. In 2016, he also changed the day to February 1.
In British Columbia, finance ministers usually wear new pairs of shoes on budget day.