New Delhi: India’s government reassured the nation that the economy was in safe hands after a cabinet reshuffle following the deadly assault by Islamic militants on the financial capital Mumbai.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took on the finance portfolio after shifting Palaniappan Chidambaram to the home ministry, to bolster India’s fight against the threat of militancy. More than 170 people died in the Mumbai attacks.
Chidambaram, who steered India through a record nearly 9% growth for four years, described Singh as the best person to guide the economy and tackle the fallout from the global recession and the attacks.
Singh, as finance minister in the early 1990s, unleashed sweeping changes which began opening up India’s inward-looking economy to the world.
“The whole country is extremely reassured and I am more than reassured that the prime minister has decided to keep the portfolio to himself,” Chidambaram said before leaving his finance ministry office for the last time.
“With this exceptional background, Singh will be able to guide the economy far better than anyone else could do,” Chidambaram said, adding that he was confident that the country would still return a very satisfactory growth rate.
Chidambaram replaces Shivraj Patil who resigned as home minister on Sunday amid huge public anger over perceived security lapses that led to the attacks.
However, he said: “There is unfinished work in this (finance) ministry, especially in this difficult year.”
“India was grappling with the impact of the global financial meltdown and still relatively high inflation,” he noted.
Chidambaram said that he was still confident that the country would post a growth rate of 7-8% this financial year to March after the economy grew by 9% last year.
“With what is happening in the rest of the world, this is not bad,” Chidambaram said.