Cabinet reshuffle: Technocrats in Team Modi for reforms push

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In the coming months, the government has promised to move on big-ticket issues such as land acquisition, infrastructure, skill development and also to step up growth in industry and agriculture.

Suresh Prabhu, 61, the new railway minister, is also the PM’s sherpa for the G-20 summit later this month.

A former chartered accountant, Prabhu is seen as a reformist, credited with laying the foundation for restructuring of the country’s complex electricity sector when he was the power minister in the Vajpayee government.

Among other things, the government will have to quickly set out a medium to long-term vision for the Indian Railways network. For long, the railways has suffered from low investment and populist policies to subsidise fares turning the once-mighty system into a slow and congested network that crimps growth.

While the economy is in a much better shape than it was five months ago, experts reckon sustained revival in investment is yet to start. Pressure is building for greater restructuring to remove possible constraints to growth.

With low-energy prices, the currency stable and inflation falling, interest rates are likely to come down. This favourable climate will allow more room for “big-bang reforms”. “It may just be the time to be a little more courageous,” a leading industrialist said.

Former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who is the new defence minister, is a metallurgical engineering graduate from IIT-Bombay. The 58-year-old takes over at a time when the government has opened up India’s lucrative defence sector, which is central to Modi’s Make in India campaign, to private industry.

Harvard University and IIT-educated Jayant Sinha, 51, a former top executive with wide experience in corporate governance and strategy consulting, could play perfect support role for finance minister Arun Jaitley as his junior minister ahead of the budget.

“At a time when the economy is undergoing a recovery process, it is important to fast-track facilitative and promotional policies to strengthen this. The cabinet expansion sends out a strong signal that the government is serious about accelerating the reforms process,” CII president Ajay Shriram said.

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