Chidambaram assumes charge of finance

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 01, 2012 13:00 hrs

New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) Palaniappan Chidambaram Wednesday took charge of the finance ministry after a gap of nearly four years, raising expectations that he would take steps to spur growth and restore investor confidence in the Indian economy.

Chidambaram, who was moved to the finance ministry from the home Tuesday in a minor cabinet reshuffle, met senior officials of the ministry after assuming charge of the new portfolio.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was holding the finance ministry since June after Pranab Mukherjee resigned to contest the presidential election, which he won hands down.

Chidambaram returns to the crucial portfolio at a time when the country's economic growth has slipped to a nine-year low of 6.5 per cent in 2011-12 and confidence among foreign and domestic investors is shaken.

It is Chidambaram's third stint as the finance minister. He first held the position in 1996 in the United Front government and presented a budget that cut tax rates and contained a number of sops for the corporate sector. It was hailed as a "dream budget".

He later became the finance minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2004. His handling of the economy helped India avoid the worst of the global financial crisis following the 2008 collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Corporate India has welcomed the return of the reform-oriented and business-friendly Chidambaram to the ministry, saying he would do all he can to spur growth and restore investor confidence.

As a seasoned politician, the Harvard educated Chidambaram in his 2008 budget managed to provide the Rs.70,000 crore agricultural loan-waiver which paid off at the hustings in 2009.

Analysts said the Congress party and the prime minister expect him to repeat the difficult balancing act in the next Budget - the last full before the 2014 election.

Chidambaram was believed to have met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning before taking over the charge.

He is scheduled to meet the president and the Prime Minister later in the day.

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