World Modi set to expand cabinet to speed up economic reforms

Modi set to expand cabinet to speed up economic reforms

India Prime Minister
India Prime Minister

Indian premier Narendra Modi is set to appoint a new defence minister Sunday in a major cabinet expansion aimed at speeding up promised economic reforms, after storming to power in May.

Manohar Parrikar, a sauve regional leader of Modi’s right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), is tipped to take the defence ministry after resigning Saturday as chief minister of the resort coastal state of Goa.

Parrikar’s likely appointment would ease the burden on Arun Jaitley, who has been juggling both the key defence and finance ministries while battling ill-health.

The move would allow Jaitley to focus on the mammoth task of reforming and reviving the flagging economy which Modi pledged during his landslide election win five months ago.

“(The) economy was, and is, in a challenging situation and one of the primary challenges is to restore confidence in the economy,” Jaitley said Sunday at an economic forum in New Delhi, declining to comment on the reshuffle.

Modi held a breakfast meeting with the newcomers at his residence in Delhi ahead of a swearing-in ceremony slated for the afternoon at the presidential palace.

Modi’s slim cabinet of 23 ministers, including the premier, is expected to see a handful of new faces while some of the 22 junior ministers of state could also be elevated to full cabinet rank.

Modi has hailed his government as more streamlined than the previous administration, vowing to speed up decision-making and slash India’s notorious bureaucracy.

But analysts say some ministers and bureaucrats, handling multiple portfolios, have felt overloaded. 

Olympic shooting silver medallist Rajyavardhan Rathore, set to be one of the new faces, said famed workaholic Modi wants his cabinet to labour as hard as he does. 

“Performance. He just wants performance. By taking fresh faces he is thinking of out of the box ideas,” first-time lawmaker Rathore told the NDTV network Sunday. 

“He wants us to work longer hours. The bottom line is: learn fast, follow his policies and perform.”

Modi wants a strong ministerial team in place ahead of parliament’s winter session, which begins on November 22.

The government is seeking to boost the economy, which expanded last year by a near-decade low of 4.7 percent — half the scorching pace seen during the country’s boom a few years back.

Although it has introduced some reforms, it has so far steered clear of “big bang” initiatives, such as contentious changes to rigid hire-and-fire rules that businesses say discourages manufacturing and investment.

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