MUMBAI Feb 18 Who should investors listen to
amid the din of official commentary on economic and monetary
policy in India?
Below are profiles of key players.
(For a related story, click [ID:nSGE61H07O])
PRANAB MUKHERJEE, FINANCE MINISTER
The no-nonsense Mukherjee, diminutive and favouring
Nehru-style jackets, sits at the top of India's economic
policy-making apparatus as head of the powerful finance
ministry. The 74-year old from West Bengal, who will present
the federal budget on Feb 26 in what is one of the most
hotly-anticipated annual events in India, took office last May
but also held the same post in the 1980s, when protectionist
policies crippled the economy.
Firmly in the left-of-centre camp of the Congress party
that espouses "inclusive growth," Mukherjee backs spending on
social programmes such as a rural jobs guarantee scheme and is
considered neither a deficit hawk nor an aggressive reformer.
A contemporary and close confidante of Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh, Mukherjee is the consummate Congress party
insider and is close to both party boss Sonia Gandhi and Singh.
He is a firefighter within the party on contentious issues.
During Mukherjee's first stint as finance minister in the
1980s, Singh served as Reserve Bank of India governor.
Mukherjee is not shy about speaking to journalists and
giving forecasts although he sometimes gets testy when crowded
by reporters and cameramen.
DUVVURI SUBBARAO, RESERVE BANK OF INDIA GOVERNOR A veteran
of the finance ministry, Subbarao is perceived to be less
independent of government influence than his predecessor, Y.V.
Reddy. That may in part be because there has been little
substantive difference between Subbarao and Mukherjee over how
to manage through the global downturn.
Less voluble than Reddy, Subbarao has nonetheless
occasionally caught the attention of markets with hawkish
commentary that conflicts with government thinking, although
his moves to tighten policy have been gradual and in line with
Still, Subbarao, 60, appears keen to spring the odd
surprise, such as raising bank reserve requirements more than
was expected in January.
A career bureaucrat who served in Singh's economic advisory
council in the Congress party's government's previous term,
Subbarao worked closely with New Delhi to help stear the Indian
economy through the global financial crisis.
Unlike some of his deputies, Subbarao is not given to
making off-the-cuff remarks.
He is also seen to be taking steps to modernise the staid
75-year-old central bank, and recently held the RBI's
first-ever conference call with analysts after the quarterly
C. RANGARAJAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE PRIME MINISTER'S ECONOMIC
A former central bank governor, Rangarajan is not shy about
airing his views on monetary policy and his statements are seen
as reflecting the official thinking of Singh's administration.
His remarks, including strongly worded statements urging
the central bank not to raise rates, are taken seriously by the
Another member of the old guard, the 78-year-old Rangarajan
sits at the head of the prime minister's economic advisory
council, which provides guidance Singh but has no direct link
Rangarajan is viewed by many market participants as
wielding clout above his official rank.
MONTEK SINGH AHLUWALIA, PLANNING COMMISSION DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
Famous for his blue turban and clipped beard, the man known
simply as "Montek" is a powerful bureaucrat whose influence is
greater than his title would suggest.
Along with the Singh and then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao,
Ahluwalia was an architect of India's moves in 1991 to
liberalise its economy, which set the country on its current
higher-growth trajectory, freeing it from the so-called "Hindu"
rate of growth.
Smooth-talking and approachable, with an Oxbridge accent,
Ahluwalia, 66, is media star who frequently speaks on data and
policy. Although his comments are often more academic than
official, his views are nonetheless closely followed by
SUBIR GOKARN, RBI DEPUTY GOVERNOR The newest of the four
RBI deputy governors, Gokarn joined the central bank late last
year from ratings agency Standard & Poor's, where he was
Asia-Pacific chief economist.
Tall, with distinctive long silver hair and beard, the
50-year-old Gokarn is responsible for monetary policy and has
had a high profile since taking office, making numerous public
He made news after the most recent monetary policy
statement when he said the central bank would change policy
outside its quarterly cycle only in response to extraordinary
conditions. The remark, which he has repeated, appeared
designed to make the RBI's policy-making more transparent and
less prone to surprise.
(Editing by Andrew Marshall)