Change with continuity is a difficult balancing act. The Finance Minister is not new to such challenges. He did it in 1996. He has done it again for the UPA government for which he needs to be congratulated.
Tethered as he has been by political compulsion and time factor, the Finance Minister has not hesitated in ushering in bold new concepts. Introduction of food stamp, emphasis on education, health and drinking water, the continuation of public-private partnership, encouraging Indian industry without diluting the journey towards globalization are few critically important steps initiated by the minister. Aware of special requirements of various sectors of the economy, Mr. Chidambaram has hiked FDI in telecom, civil aviation and insurance, introduced option of tonnage tax in shipping. The decision for setting up international trans-shipment terminal at Kochi is yet another welcome step as this is his resolve to deal with privatisation.
Setting up an inter-institutional lending group for infrastructure project is another welcome decision. The same could be considered for industries like steel, which provide critical inputs to the infrastructure sector. On balance, the Finance Minister has looked after all major aspects barring the requirements of quality steel manufacturers of the country. Rise in excise duty with reduction in customs will merely encourage low quality steel being dumped into India. This perhaps needs a rethinking in the light of what the industry has gone through over the last five years.