Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday held a rare meeting with directors at the department of financial services (DFS), as part of a series of interactive sessions being planned with such officers in the ministries of finance and corporate affairs.
While a finance minister’s meetings with secretaries, additional secretaries and joint secretaries are pretty much common, the practice of meeting only these officers who are lower in rank than joint secretaries but are instrumental in policy-making is relatively rare.
The meeting with directors and deputy secretaries, who often play a key role in the drafting of various policy initiatives, signals Sitharaman’s renewed focus on the relatively lower-rung of policy-making apparatus to improve governance. Minister of state for finance and corporate affairs Anurag Thakur was also present at the meeting.
The series of interactions come at a critical juncture when the economy is reeling under the damaging impact of a pandemic of epic proportion, with several anlaysts predicting an up to 7% contraction in real GDP in FY21, although they are divided over the possibility of a sharp recovery in FY22. However, economic affairs secretary Tarun Bajaj last month exuded confidence that the economy would witness a V-shaped recovery as early as FY22 and the situation wasn’t as bad as anticipated.
The meetings also follow the government’s announcement of a Rs 21-lakh-crore relief package to soften the Covid blow and its plans to roll out more measures in the coming months to reverse a slide in economic growth.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a series of meetings directly with additional secretaries and joint secretaries of all departments, in a first-of-its-kind exercise for a head of the government in recent memory, to seek their inputs on ways to improve governance. Before that, Modi had held a series of meetings with secretaries of various departments as well.