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Budget 2021: How a Scotsman brought India its first-ever budget

Budget 2021: Apart from presenting India's first budget, Wilson is also known for founding banking giant Standard Chartered Bank

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | February 1, 2021 | Updated 03:25 IST
Budget 2021: How a Scotsman brought India its first-ever budget
Budget 2021

In 1860, a Scotsman named James Wilson presented India's first-ever budget. Interestingly, Wilson had humble beginnings as a hat maker in the UK. As he grew older Wilson became well-read in finance and economics. Eventually, he became a finance member of Viceroy of India Lord Canning's council. He also became a British Member of Parliament. Rising through the ranks he was appointed as Finance Secretary to the UK Treasury. He also served as the Vice-President of the Board of Trade.

Wilson arrived on Indian shores in 1859, a year before he would present the country's first budget. At that time the British government in India was facing financial stress caused by the Revolt of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence. Increased military spending during the turbulent period had drained British resources leading to them owning heavy debts. Wilson, with his expertise on matters of finance and economics, was brought on board to sort out the matter.

"He [Wilson] introduced for the first time in India a financial budget framed upon the English model - inspired the public mind with fresh confidence - brought together the threads of finance which had been broken and scattered by a military and political convulsion - stimulated the operations of the Military Finance Commission to review the numerous branches of civil expenditure - reviewed the existing system of audit and account - besides discharging the multifarious duties devolving on a finance minister and a member of the general government," Economic Historian Sabyasachi Bhattacharya wrote about Wilson in the book 'Financial Foundations of the British Raj'.

Wilson is also credited for introducing the concept of Income Tax, which was hated by the people and caused a major controversy. Some would argue that feelings towards Income Tax among Indians have not changed much since.  Being economically liberal Wilson was a proponent of laissez-faire policies.

Apart from presenting India's first budget, Wilson is also known for founding banking giant Standard Chartered Bank. His list of achievements does not end here, Wilson was also the founder of the world-renowned financial magazine 'The Economist'.

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