One of the biggest names to come unscathed after the massive cabinet reshuffle yesterday was Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Finance Minister took the reins of the ministry in 2019, after Arun Jaitley, citing ill health had dropped out of the race. The advent of the global pandemic was one of the biggest setbacks any FM could have encountered. And while any other passive minister would have withered away, owing to the insurmountable pressure from all sides, Sitharaman managed to hold the fort tight. As a result, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has continued to repose the faith in her.
Sitharaman on Wednesday received two Ministers of State for Finance Pankaj Choudhary and Bhagwat Kishanrao Karad to assist her in achieving various goals set by the government in the Budget 2021-22.
Despite the deadly second wave of China-made pandemic, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) under Sitharaman’s hawk-like guidance grew 1.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021, marking two-quarters of consecutive growth after it exited a rare recession. The Q4FY21 GDP data released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) is in line with estimates released by multiple rating agencies earlier.
It is pertinent to note that ever since the first lockdown imposed by the government in March last year, Nirmala Sitharaman has routinely conducted high-level meetings and provided relief measures to the public and the different sectors of the economy.
On the advice of FM, PM Modi in May last year announced a massive Rs. 20 lakh crore package, roughly 10 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to give immediate relief against the slowdown induced by the Pandemic and the related lockdowns.
As a result, the Indian economy started recovering quickly from the third quarter of FY21 (December quarter) as restrictions were eased; the festive sales also contributed to the 0.4 per cent growth in the third quarter of FY21.
Previously reported by TFI, International Monetary Fund, the global lending and forecasting agency, has predicted that India will be the only economy to grow at double-digit in the calendar year 2021. As per the IMF’s World Economic Outlook update, India will be the fastest-growing economy for the next few years with 11.5 per cent growth in 2021 and 6.8 per cent in 2022, which is significantly higher than 8.5 per cent and 5.6 per cent of what is predicted for China in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
The fact that the PMO continues to believe in Sitharaman can also be gauged by the fact that her suggestions during the finance budget speech, earlier this year in February, were accepted by the PM who established a new ‘Ministry of Cooperation’. Through the new ministry, the Central Government, working on the advice of FM has signalled its deep commitment to community-based developmental partnership.
There is still room for improvement, but what the public has seen from Nirmala during the troublesome period of the last one and a half year is enough to provide a sense of relief and confidence that there indeed is a minister who has an intelligent head on the shoulder. The stakeholders are also impressed with Sitharaman and believe that she can steer the economy through tumultuous phases.