In its second term, will India’s ruling coalition be bolder about reform?

INDIA’S NEW finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman (pictured below), is an unusual figure in the country’s politics. She is the first woman to head the finance ministry since Indira Gandhi seized the post (while also serving as prime minister) 50 years ago, after nationalising many of India’s banks. She is an economist. But unlike most in her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) she hails from the country’s south, having grown up in Tamil Nadu, one of the few big states to resist the BJP’s advances in the recent election. She claims a humbler background than her predecessor, Arun Jaitley. Her father worked for India’s railways and she spent a month selling home furnishings at Habitat, a shop in London.

Ms Sitharaman thus embodies the BJP’s broadening appeal to aspirational Indians outside its traditional heartlands. But will she help it fulfil those aspirations? On the day she was appointed, India’s statistical authority reported that growth in the first quarter of the year had slipped to 5.8%, its slowest since Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in 2014 (see chart). The government also belatedly released a report it had withheld showing that unemployment had risen to 6.1% in the year ending June 2018. In India, the jobless are often not the poorest, who cannot afford not to work, but the newly educated, qualified for better jobs that...



via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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