Mr. Palaniappan Chidambaram is the Finance Minister of India in the Congress Party led United Progressive Alliance Government which took office in May, 2004. Mr. Chidambaram had earlier been Finance Minister from June, 1996 to March, 1998. He is recognized both in India and in the wider international business community as a champion of economic reforms who believes that countries which are open to competition have succeeded in removing poverty.
He studied at Presidency College, Chennai, India and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree. He also received a Bachelor of Law degree at the Law College, Madras University. He subsequently attended the Harvard Business School and was awarded a Masters in Business Administration.
Mr. Chidambaram is a lawyer by profession, and is recognized as one of the leading senior counsels in India, particularly in the area of constitutional and corporate law. He enrolled as an Advocate in the Madras High Court in 1969 and established a successful law practice. His practice has been in the Indian Supreme Court and in High Courts in different states in the country. He has also appeared in a number of arbitration proceedings in India and abroad.
He has been active in politics from the late 1960s in the Youth Congress and the Congress Party and was first elected to the lower house of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) in 1984 from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu in southern India. He has continuously represented the same constituency since then, except for a brief period between 1999 and 2004, having been re-elected 5 times.
He was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers in September, 1985 as a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Commerce and then in the Ministry of Personnel. He was elevated to the rank of Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions in January, 1986. He was instrumental in ushering in important civil service reforms at that time. In October, 1986, he was also appointed as Minister of State for Internal Security in the Ministry of Home Affairs. In this capacity he was responsible for dealing with insurgency and terrorism related issues. He continued to hold both the offices until the general elections were called in 1989. Following the elections held in June 1991, he was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Commerce and held the post till July, 1992. He was reappointed as Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Commerce in February, 1995 and held the post till April, 1996. It was during this period that major economic reforms were launched in India. At this time, he was a key participant in the economic reforms team of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was responsible for trade liberalization and far reaching reforms of the industrial licensing procedures, including outright abolition of many licensing requirements.
He was appointed as Finance Minister on June 1, 1996 and held the post till March 18, 1998. During his first stint as Finance Minister, Mr. Chidambaram presented what many commentators described as the “dream budget” in which the rates of personal and corporate income tax rates were brought down dramatically.
In his present stint as Finance Minister since May 2004, Mr. Chidambaram is credited with sound macro-economic management, which has accelerated the growth rate to over 8 per cent in each of the 3 years and has exceeded 9 percent in the last fiscal year (2006- 07). Savings and investment rates have jumped, stock markets and foreign investment, both direct and portfolio, have boomed and inflation has been kept in check. In the current tenure the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act has been notified and the State level Value Added Tax has been adopted. Ground is being prepared for wider financial sector reforms as well.
Mr. Chidambaram is an articulate and forceful speaker and has long experience in international economic diplomacy. He was involved in the WTO negotiations as the Minister for Commerce. He has also been a very effective participant in many IMFC, Development Committee, ADB, G-20 and G-7 outreach events. He is a well recognized and respected figure in these international gatherings. He is regularly invited to lecture at universities and other institutions in different parts of the world.
Mr. Chidambaram has a wide range of interests. He is a trustee of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. He is interested in Modern Literature especially Tamil Literature. He is a trustee of the 'Illakkiya Chintanai' (Literary Association), Chennai, India.
He is fond of sports, especially Tennis, Badminton and Chess.
He has widely travelled both within and outside India, including visits to South and South East Asia, Australia, Japan, China, USA, Europe, Russia and Africa.
Mr. Chidambaram is married to Nalini. They have one son.
His office address is Room No.134, North Block, New Delhi 110 001.
He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.