Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present her third budget on February 1, 2022. The finance minister and her department will be watched keenly for measures to enable the pandemic-hit economy to climb out of the rut. They have been working on drafting new measures and policies for accelerating economic growth. Apart from Sitharaman, the drafting of the budget depends on her key team. Sitharaman’s team includes five high-profile officials – TV Somanathan, Tarun Bajaj, Debashish Panda, Ajay Seth, and Tuhin Kanta Pandey. They have a key role in deciding how the budget for this fiscal is drafted.
Meet Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s A-team:
TV Somanathan: The 1987 batch IAS officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre, TV Somanathan served as a joint secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2015, after a stint with World Bank. Being the finance secretary, he is the most senior official among the five. He has been pushing ministries to increase spending on their capital expenditure to ensure growth amid the pandemic-accelerated economic strain. It will be interesting to see how Somanathan figures out how the capital expenditure will be spent this fiscal year.
Tarun Bajaj: The 1988 batch IAS officer from the Haryana cadre is currently serving as the revenue secretary in the finance ministry. Previously, he served in the Prime Minister’s office. He was one of the key officials who steered the Atmanirbhar Bharat relief packages. His role in the finance ministry is to ensure realistic tax targets and this fiscal he is planning to exceed tax collections. In Budget 2022, he is expected to ease tax compliance and announce packages for pandemic-hit businesses and sectors.
Ajay Seth: Currently serving as economic affairs secretary Seth is a 1987 batch IAS officer from the Karnataka cadre. Previously, he served as managing director of Bangalore Metro. He is in charge of drafting all the Budget speeches of Sitharaman, with Somanathan by his side. He heads the department for the capital market, investment, and infra-related policies. He is expected to release large funds for big projects to bring in revenues and create jobs.
Debashish Panda: The 1987 batch IAS officer heads the Department of Financial Services and plays a key role in the revival of public sector undertakings. He has been instrumental in laying the foundation for next-generation reforms in public sector financial institutions. Under him, public sector banks have finally turned around and the upcoming budget is expected to provide a further boost.
Tuhin Kanta Pandey: The 1987 Odisha cadre IAS officer played a key role in the privatisation of Air India. The government might not meet its disinvestment target, but with 17 more strategic sales lined up and asset monetization pipeline ready, he has an action-packed year ahead. The LIC IPO will be a major disinvestment.