A day after he was sworn into the Narendra Modi cabinet, finance minister Arun Jaitley took charge and said that the government’s priority would be to contain the fiscal deficit and inflation while restoring economic growth. He also said that measures would be taken to restore investor confidence.
Dressed in white, Jaitley, 61, also in charge of defence and corporate affairs, reached his office at North Block just before 10 am. The office was refurbished after his predecessor P Chidambaram relinquished charge on May 15.
It was a busy day for Jaitley, who met senior finance ministry officials to discuss the state of the economy. Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan also called on him. The two held a meeting discussing various issues including inflation.
“I am conscious of the fact that I am taking over at a very challenging time particularly when there is a need to rebuild the confidence of the Indian economy,” Jaitley told reporters.
“The mandate which our government has received has an inbuilt hope in it, and I’m sure that a political change itself sends a strong signal to the global community as well as domestic investors.”
Jaitley, however, said that the policy of the government would be unveiled in the next few days.
A senior finance ministry official told HT that each department would apprise the minister of the policy measures and current challenges. “We will hold detailed discussions with the new minister to highlight the current policy measures and also the challenges,” the official said.
Jaitley may shed defence soon
The additional charge of defence ministry given to Arun Jaitley has raised speculation that a BJP heavyweight could take over the important ministry shortly.
Jaitley said as much when he met reporters on Tuesday.
“The (defence) ministry is only an additional charge with me till alternative arrangements are made after a full expansion of the council of ministers... This is a very important ministry and hopefully it should get a ministerial head over the next couple of weeks to look after the ministry full time,” he said.
Though there was no official word, the names of veteran leader MM Joshi and Arun Shourie are doing the rounds as possible candidates for the defence portfolio.
(with PTI inputs)