New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's crack team of economic ministers led by Arun Jaitley in finance today began the Herculean task of arresting price rise, reviving investor confidence and boosting growth.
Jaitley, who has also been given the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, pledged to contain the price rise, restore the confidence of investors in the economy and promote growth while keeping the fiscal deficit under check. New Telecom and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad made the right noises on retrospective tax, which has been severely criticised by industry and foreign investors, and promised a stable fiscal regime to lure overseas investments. Former BJP president and party heavyweight Nitin Gadkari, who turned 57 today, will take charge of the Road Transport and Highways and the Shipping ministries on Wednesday.
Three others—Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra, Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar and Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Anant Geete—also did not take charge today. Ramvilas Paswan, who assumed charge of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, said his priority would be to streamline the working of FCI and making the public distribution system more effective.
Apart from Jaitley, Prasad and Paswan, some ministers holding economic portfolios are first-timers with no background of handling high-profile assignments. After taking charge, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reaffirmed the BJP's stand of not allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, but said her government will take steps to boost exports and create jobs.
Chartered accountant Piyush Goyal, now in charge of the warring coal and power ministries, vowed to end electricity shortages as he looked to develop synergies between fuel supply and power projects. He also holds the renewable energy portfolio. Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan hinted at keeping the common man's interest in mind while deciding on issues such as natural gas price hike and fuel price de-regulation.
After Jaitley took charge, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan called on him and they discussed inflation and other macro economic issues. During his media interaction, Jaitley said the country's economy was passing through difficult times. “The challenges are very obvious. We have to restore the pace of growth, contain inflation, and obviously concentrate on fiscal consolidation itself,” he said. Telecom Minister Prasad said improving service quality, restoring the confidence of investors and creating a broadband network would be his priorities.
New Textiles Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar took charge and pledged to work towards promoting Brand India abroad and boosting the country's textile exports.
Talking to reporters, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Minister Paswan said the procurement system will be strengthened to ensure that its benefits reach the farmers. Minimum support price and monitoring of prices of essential commodities are the other important issues.
After taking charge, Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal said her mission would be to find new and innovative ways to reduce post-harvest losses. Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Planning and Statistics and Programme Implementation Inderjit Singh Rao also took charge today.