Technocrat PM works well for FM | india | Hindustan Times
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Technocrat PM works well for FM

"When the RBI governer & I sit with the PM, we know we are talking to someone who is knowledgeable," says FM.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2006 16:41 IST

Finance Minister P Chidambaram says having a Prime Minister who has been both the previous occupant of his office and a chief of the country's monetary authority works "very well" for him.

"Maybe it should become the benchmark for the future," he told The Straits Times of Singapore in an interview. "It works very well."

Chidambaram was responding to a question about the equation he shared with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was India's Finance Minister from 1991 to 1996 and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor between 1982 and 1985.

"When the RBI governor and I sit with the Prime Minister, we know we are talking to someone who is knowledgeable," he said, and drew a parallel with the situation in Singapore.

Lee Hsien Loong, 54, who is Singapore's Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, was the chairman of the country's monetary authority in 1998, before succeeding Goh Chok Tong to the present position in August 2004.

"Singapore is no different. It has got a PM who was formerly the chairman of the monetary authority. I am sure it works very well for Singapore too," Chidambaram said.

The minister said he believed that the peace process with Pakistan and the equation with China have implications for the Indian economy.

"We have told Pakistan they should give India MFN (most-favoured nation) status. We should improve direct trade. But it takes two to tango. Pakistan has to come out of its mindset and deal with India as a trading partner," he said.

"Trade with China is booming. We are happy it's growing," Chidambaram said, but added it was not time yet for New Delhi to have a free-trade pact with Beijing.

Responding to the unprecedented rise in Indian stock markets, where the key 30-share sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange has topped 11,000 points, he said investors must take informed, careful decisions.

"As long as there is no disorderly movement in the markets, I have to assume investors, both buyers and sellers, know what they are doing. I have always cautioned investors should take informed decisions after careful study."

Chidambaram said anybody who does not have the aptitude or the ability to make a careful study should go through the mutual fund route, but said there was no information that had been brought to his notice that the recent spurt was a bubble.

"SEBI (Securities Exchange Board of India) is a competent watchdog and I think it keeps a close eye on what is happening."

Chidambaram made it clear that he was willing to assume charge of any portfolio assigned to him, though the Harvard-educated lawyer-politician did indicate the careers he liked.

"I have always enjoyed being a lawyer, too," he said. And when asked if foreign affairs interested him, he said: "Is anyone offering it to me?"