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A finance minister is an executive or cabinet position in charge of one or more of government finances, economic policy and financial regulation. It may also be a junior minister in the finance department, the British Treasury, for example has four junior ministers.
A finance minister's portfolio has a large variety of names across the world, such as "treasury", "finance", "financial affairs", "economy" or "economic affairs". The position of the finance minister might be named for this portfolio, but it may also have some other name, like "Treasurer" or, in the United Kingdom, "Chancellor of the Exchequer".
The duties of a finance minister differ between countries. Typically, they encompass one or more of government finance, fiscal policy, and financial regulation, but there are significant differences between countries:
- in some countries the finance minister might also have oversight of monetary policy (while in other countries that is the responsibility of an independent central bank);
- in some countries the finance minister might be assisted by one or more other ministers (some supported by a separate government department) with respect to fiscal policy or budget formation;
- in many countries there is a separate portfolio for general economic policy in the form of a ministry of "economic affairs" or "national economy" or "commerce";
- in many countries financial regulation is handled by a separate agency, which might be overseen by the finance ministry or some other government body.
Finance ministers are also often found in governments of federated states or provinces of a federal country. In these cases their powers may be substantially limited by superior legislative or fiscal policy, notably the control of taxation, spending, currency, inter-bank interest rates and the money supply.
The powers of a finance minister vary between governments. In the United Kingdom and Australia, the finance minister (called the "Chancellor of the Exchequer" and the "Treasurer" respectively) is in practice the most important cabinet post after the Prime Minister.
In the United States, the finance minister is called the "Secretary of the Treasury", though there is a separate and subordinate Treasurer of the United States, and it is the director of the Office of Management and Budget who drafts the budget.
In the United Kingdom, the equivalent of the finance minister is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Due to a quirk of history, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is also styled Second Lord of the Treasury with the Prime Minister also holding the historic position of First Lord of the Treasury. This signals the Prime Minister's seniority and superior responsibility over the Treasury.
Finance ministers can be unpopular if they must raise taxes or cut spending. Finance ministers whose key decisions had directly benefited both the performance and perception of their country’s economic and financial achievements are recognised by the annual Euromoney Finance Minister of the Year award.