Nirmala Sitharaman beats Queen Elizabeth, Ivanka Trump in Forbes’ powerful women list

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India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is more powerful than New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, British Queen Elizabeth II and US President Donald Trump’s daughter and Advisor Ivanka Trump, according to the “World’s most powerful women” rankings by US magazine Forbes.

Finance Minister Sitharaman has been ranked as the 34th most powerful woman in the world on Forbes’ “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” list ahead of Queen Elizabeth II, who is on the 40th spot and US President Donald Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump, who is on the 42nd spot and Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister.

The ranking comes when India’s inflation has started hurting and factory output having shrunk further in the latest numbers highlighting challenges for policymakers battling an economic slowdown amid surging food prices.

Factory output contracted 3.8 per cent in October after shrinking 4.3 per cent in September, in sharp contrast with an 8.4 per cent expansion in October last year.

Retail inflation continued to surge in November, fuelled by soaring food prices, as prolonged rains dampened vegetable supplies. Retail inflation surged 5.54 per cent in November as food price inflation measured by the Consumer Food Price Index rose 10 per cent in November from 7.89 per cent in October.

In September, the government slashed the corporate tax rate to 22 per cent from 30 per cent for existing companies, and to 15 per cent from 25 per cent for new manufacturing companies. Including a surcharge and cess, the effective tax rate for existing companies would now come down to 25.17 per cent from 35 per cent.

Companies can opt for the higher tax rates or the new ones. She also announced a mega consolidation of India PSU banks reducing them to 4 by merging 10 banks for higher scale of business strong balance sheets.

NBFCs, who are fighting liquidity were given adequate liquidity to lend to rural and urban common man, businesses were given one-time six months’ partial credit guarantee to PSBs for first loss of up to 10 per cent for purchase of high-rated pooled assets of financially sound NBFCs, amounting to a total of Rs 1 lakh crore during the current financial year.

The scheme was announced to address temporary liquidity/cash flow mismatch issues of otherwise solvent NBFCs/HFCs without them having to resort to distress sale of their assets for meeting their commitments. Now the scheme would cover NBFCs/HFCs that may have slipped into SMA-0 category during the one year period prior to August 1, 2018, and asset pools rated “BBB+” or higher also along with AAA rated assets.

Sitharaman’s high spot will be under scrutiny by intelligentsia as questions are being raised in certain quarters in India over her handling of the economy which has now dipped to 4.5 per cent in Q2 on very low demand and consumption and sluggish investments despite series of government fiscal sops and Central Bank giving a helping hand by cutting lending rates by an unprecedented 135 bps in less than a year.

The Minister has also courted a lot of controversy over her remarks on burning economic issues. She had blamed the millennials preferring the ‘Uber and Olas’ for the slow growth in auto sales rather than the NBFCs liquidity crunch whose funds are mostly used for auto sales in rural areas and recently.

She said she doesn’t care much for onions since she doesn’t eat them. Onion prices had touched Rs 200 kg and after MMTC imported 1.2 lakh tonnes of onions to improve the domestic supply and control prices it has eased.

During the debate on rising onion prices, a parliamentarian asked the minister if the onion price hike does not worry her.

In her response, FM Sitharaman said, “I don’t eat a lot of onions and garlic, so don’t worry. I come from a family that doesn’t care much for onions.”

She received a lot of flak from on social media users, who criticised her comment for being casteist. The other two Indian women who have made to the list are — HCL Corporation CEO and Executive Director Roshni Nadar Malhotra and Biocon Founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw have been named among the world’s 100 most powerful women by Forbes.

The Forbes 2019 list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” has been topped by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde in the second spot and Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, ranked third.

Also on the list is Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (29). “In 2019, women around the globe took action, claiming leadership positions in government, business, philanthropy and media. These trailblazers are not to be messed with,” Forbes said.

Sitharaman, a newcomer on the Forbes most powerful women list, is ranked 34th. India’s first female Finance Minister Sitharaman has also served as the country’s Defence Minister. She is the first female to hold the portfolio full time.

Before this, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi briefly took the additional charge of the ministry.

Nadar Malhotra is ranked 54th on the list. As CEO of HCL Corporation, she is responsible for all strategic decisions for the $8.9 billion technology company.

Mazumdar-Shaw, ranked 65 on the list, is India’s richest self-made woman and founder of the country’s largest biopharmaceutical firm Biocon in 1978.

The Forbes list also includes Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates (6), IBM CEO Ginni Rometty (9), Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (18), New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (38), First Daughter and Advisor to President Donald Trump Ivanka Trump (42), singers Rihanna (61), Beyonce (66) and Taylor Swift (71), tennis star Serena Williams (81) and teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg (100).

Referring to Pelosi’s recent “Don’t mess with me” remark to a reporter”, Forbes said that could be the mantra for just about everyone on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women.

The top-ranked woman for the ninth year in a row, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is crusading against anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe; Taylor Swift is battling industry stalwarts and private equity firms over musician song-ownership rights; and 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg, one of 23 newcomers to the list is fighting inaction on climate change and galvanizing millions of young people around the globe.-IANS News

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