New Delhi: With the UPA’s “Man for all seasons” Pranab Mukherjee putting in his papers to contest the Presidential poll, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 26 took charge of the Finance portfolio yet again, and at a time when the economy is going through a bad phase again, though not like in 1991.
Dr. Singh, a renowned economist and former Governor of the Reserve Bank, is credited with ushering in economic reforms as Finance Minister under the stewardship of P.V. Narasimha Rao after India had to pledge its gold to avoid defaulting on loan repayments.
This time round, in his temporary charge of the Finance Ministry until a Cabinet reshuffle is effected after the Presidential election, Dr. Singh will be assisted by the two Ministers of State at North Block — S.S. Palanimanickam and Namo Narain Meena. He will also have the able services of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and his own Economic Advisory Council Chairman C. Rangarajan.
Incidentally, Dr. Singh takes charge of the portfolio at a time when the country’s growth rate has slipped to a nine-year low of 6.5 percent and the current account deficit (CAD) has been widening, touching a high of four percent.
To make matters worse, the rupee also slumped to a historic low of 57.97 against the dollar and to prop up which, the RBI and the government announced a slew of measures that, however, turned out to be below stock and currency market expectations in view of the hype that preceded the package.
The Prime Minister already holds a number of portfolios — Atomic Energy, Space, Planning, and Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
In another decision, Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has been given additional charge of Small, Micro and Medium Industries as Virbhadra Singh resigned in the wake of corruption charges.