NEW DELHI: What does it take to become a finance minister and prepare and present a Budget? Definitely not an academic background in economics or commerce. That’s evident from the fact that very few of India’s finance ministers studied economic or commerce in college. Of the nearly 30 finance ministers India has had so far, only six studied economics or commerce.
John Mathai, India’s first finance minister in 1946 (in the interim government) graduated in economics from University of Madras and later also taught the subject there for a brief period. He presented two Budgets, in 1946 and 1950. He was also the first chairman of the State Bank of India and the founding president of the governing body of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), India’s first independent economic policy think tank.
T. T. Krishnamachari, the finance minister in 1956–1958 and 1964–1966, studied economics at Madras Christian College and also taught it there as a visiting professor. He was the founding member of the first governing body of NCAER. R. Venkataraman, who was the finance minister in 1980 and later became the president of India, had a master’s degree in economics from Loyola College, Madras. I.K. Gujral, who was the finance minister briefly in 1997, studied commerce at Hailey College in Lahore.
Manmohan Singh, the economist who became the finance minister and then the prime minister, studied economics at University of Cambridge and did his D.Phil from the University of Oxford. P. Chidambaram has a degree in statistics from the Presidency College, Chennai and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Arun Jaitley, the present finance minister, has a honours degree in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi.
It may be shocking for some that most of India’s finance minister did not study economics, but it doesn’t mean a finance minister without an academic background in economics or commerce will necessarily do badly.
C. D. Deshmukh is a very good example. Finance minister from 1950 to 1956, he studied natural sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge. He topped the Indian Civil Service Examination and went on to become the governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He was part of a five-member delegation representing India at the Bretton Woods Conference which established the International Monetary Fund. At the conference, J.M. Keynes was so impressed by Deshmukh that he wanted him to head IMF as its first managing director.
Source : Financial Express