After a lull for over a month in the absence of a full-time Finance Minister, it will be back to business in North Block in the next few days with P. Chidambaram back at the helm on Wednesday to steer the economy through the rough waters.
Handing over the stewardship of the Home Ministry — a portfolio he was summoned to take charge of by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai — to erstwhile Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde earlier during the day, Mr. Chidambaram returned to his preferred hot seat that had been vacated by Pranab Mukherjee to contest the Presidential poll.
Alongside, taking charge as Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) on Wednesday was Arvind Mayaram, who moved from the Ministry of Rural Development to join the boss he had worked with earlier in the Finance Ministry. The rest of the top positions in the Ministry will be finalised in the next couple of days. And once Mr. Chidambaram has his team in place, the challenging tasks will have been already laid out for him to attend to, without any further loss of time.
Among the top items on the Minister’s agenda, according to knowledgeable sources, is a meeting with India Inc. through the apex chambers in a bid to instil business and investor confidence and assure industry that necessary steps will be taken by the government to bring the economy back on track.
In this exercise, Mr. Chidambaram is unlikely to take up where his predecessor — now President Pranab Mukherjee — left off. For, undoing the uncertainty among investors both at home and abroad will take a considerable part.
In this regard, a beginning has already been made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in setting up the Parthasarathi Shome committee to look into the provisions of General Anti Avoidance Rules afresh through consultations with stakeholders and finalise a set of guidelines by September 30. More recently, the panel has also been entrusted with an additional task of reviewing the retrospective tax provisions with regard to Vodafone-type transactions and advise the government on the next course of action by way of tax clarity to the satisfaction of foreign investors.
Apart from having a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning and calling on the Prime Minister later during the day, an official engagement of Mr. Chidambaram was to receive a dividend cheque for Rs. 182 crore for 2011-12 from the Chairman and Managing Director of Vijaya Bank.