With an overarching role cutting across all economic ministries, Arun Jaitley took charge as the new Finance Minister on Tuesday with a promise to contain inflation, promote growth and curb fiscal deficit. He said specific steps on each of these would be spelt out as part of the government’s policy in the next few days. “You will have to wait a few days for it,” he said.
“I am taking over at a very challenging time, particularly when there is a need to rebuild the Indian economy. The challenges are very obvious. We have to restore the pace of growth, contain inflation, and obviously concentrate on fiscal consolidation itself,” Jaitley said in a statement to the media after reaching his North Block office.
Besides Finance, Jaitley is also in charge of Corporate Affairs. Significantly, Nirmala Sitharaman, the Minister of State (independent charge) for Commerce and Industry, is also the MoS for Finance, so Jaitley is expected to work in close coordination with those departments too. Jaitley’s immediate priority would be the passage of the Union Budget for FY ‘15 by early July. Jaitley also promised that the NDA government would expedite the decision-making process over the next two months.
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“The mandate which our government has received has an inbuilt hope in it, and I am sure the political change itself sends a strong signal to the global community as also the domestic investors,” he said. He said the government’s policy would balance inflation concerns with growth promotion.
Jaitley received a steady stream of visitors through the day, including Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan. “We discussed a range of issues. Curbing inflation is absolutely a task that the government and the RBI are engaged with,” said Rajan after his nearly one-hour-long meeting.
In the morning, Jaitley met the secretaries in the finance ministry led by Finance Secretary Arvind Mayaram. Later in the day, the departments gave a detailed powerpoint presentation on the key issues before the new government. The exercise is expected to continue on Wednesday.