The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing restrictions in mobility may result in a 75 per cent reduction in the budgetary allocation for foreign travel in FY22, a senior finance ministry official said. The government will cut "frivolous expenditure" when all the activities are going on in the virtual mode, joint secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Madnesh Kumar Mishra, said in an event organised by XLRI.
It can be noted that the budget for the next fiscal is under preparations right now and officials are also having discussions internally and also with external stakeholders for suggestions. "Two days before, I was attending a budget proposal, of course the budget is now under preparation, on how much money you require for foreign travel? We just put one-fourth of what we had projected last year, because there is no foreign travel expenditure at all," Mishra said.
Mishra said video conferences are the new normal, and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been addressing events like multilateral meetings virtually and added that there is a lot of cost saving because of the same. Stating that work from home is the new normal, Mishra said even companies will look at saving costs on the back of this new phenomenon by leasing lesser space and spending less on travel, which will in turn help them maximise profits.
The pandemic has had an emotional and psychological impact as well as social interactions get limited, he said, adding that the experience of the last few months will also result in a change in home designs as provisions for a home-office get made. Mishra said the pandemic has also given us a new term "vaccine nationalism", as countries rush to book capacities on rendering the anti-dotes to their populations.
In the initial days of the lockdown, the entire government machinery had to be pulled into work because it was evident that there will be requirements on banking and insurance, he said. Without elaborating on the context for the meeting, Mishra said in January, there was a meeting of industrialists across sectors with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman which was also attended by Road and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari in which none of the 300 industrialists came up with any solution.
In the three-hour long meeting, the industrialists only sought concessions from the government and not a single one said they will float a venture of their own, he rued, and added that such behavior is the genesis of the PM's call of 'vocal for local'. Mishra also exuded confidence that growth will come back soon and he is optimistic about the same.