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Modi 3.0: FM Sitharaman is all set to present seventh Budget in a row

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NEW DELHI : As the country’s Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, 64, is set to become the first Finance Minister to present seven consecutive Budgets — six full and one interim and will surpass Morarji Desai on this.

Sitharaman has had a remarkable journey so far. First inducted into the Modi government in 2014 as minister of state with independent charge of commerce and minister of state for finance and corporate affairs, she was elevated to cabinet rank in 2017 as Defence Minister. In the second stint of the Modi government in 2019, she became the first full-time woman finance minister in India.

As finance minister she steered the economy through the once in a century pandemic, largely by taking supply-side measures.

It was during Covid that the Budget size increased from 12.2 per cent of GDP in FY19 to 17.7 per cent in FY21. Capex rose fivefold in the last 10 years without comprising fiscal consolidation. This has raised the prospects of a sovereign rating upgrade in next two years, after the recent outlook upgrade to “positive” from “stable” by S&P Global Ratings.

A Jawaharlal Nehru University alumna, Sitharaman led the country in the G20 discussions, bringing to the table for the very first time issues related to cryptocurrencies as well as the much-needed reforms in the multilateral development banks. 

In 2019, as she took the reins of the ministry, Sitharaman announced a cut in base corporate tax to 22 per cent from 30 per cent for existing companies and to 15 per cent for certain new manufacturing companies. The aim was to free corporate cash to push jobs and private capex. Big companies have now availed of more deductions and incentives or have shifted to the new lower tax regime, but it has not resulted in a commensurate increase in private capex. Ensuring that government capex crowds in private investment will be one of her challenges.

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