All eyes are on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as she gears up to present the Union Budget 2021 on Monday amid huge public expectations in the wake of Covid-induced economic crisis.
India’s first full-time female Finance Minister will be coming up with the annual economic document for the third time in three years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 had managed to assemble a newish-looking team for his second term. The top job in the finance ministry had opened up as Arun Jaitley, who held the position during Modi’s first five-year term, made himself unavailable for health reasons.
The Prime Minister had picked Sitharaman to become India's first full-time female Finance Minister. She had previously handled defense and commerce.
She became the second woman to hold the Finance portfolio after Indira Gandhi held the additional charge of Finance when she was Prime Minister in 1970 to 1971.
Sixty-year-old Sitharaman takes charge of what is perhaps the most important ministry at a time when the country is reeling from economic slowdown, a slump in consumption and rising unemployment. She had served as a junior Minister in Finance and Corporate Affairs earlier.
Born on August 18, 1959, in Madurai, Sitharaman has a master’s degree in economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University and has also worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers in London, apart from also working as an assistant to Economist in the Agricultural Engineers Association, London. She has also briefly worked with the BBC World Service.
After returning to India, she also served as the Deputy Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies in Hyderabad.
Sitharaman became a member of the National Women for Commission in 2003 and joined the BJP in 2006. She went on to become the national spokesperson of the party.
She was first inducted in the Union Cabinet in 2014 as the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industry.
Before becoming the Defence Minister in the previous Modi government, Sitharaman served as the Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs.
As the Defence Minister, Sitharaman has driven several policy changes, which include the new defence manufacturing policy and defence industrial corridors in the states of Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
With the economy clocking the slowest pace growth ever due to the covid crisis, Sitharaman is faced with the massive challenge of kick-starting a slowing economy. Reforms that will address this slowdown, along with tax revenue shortfalls and stepping up public expenditures is what Sitharaman will have to look at.