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The ‘misfortune’ of Singh and economy

Fixing economic crisis will take a long time, Singh said

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi

  • Published 18.10.19, 5:30 AM
  • Updated 18.10.19, 5:39 AM
Singh said that while he supported the reduction of corporate taxes, the current problem related to a demand slowdown.
Singh said that while he supported the reduction of corporate taxes, the current problem related to a demand slowdown. (Shutterstock)

Manmohan Singh, whose liberalisation model has been prescribed for the Narendra Modi dispensation by the husband of the incumbent finance minister, was asked on Thursday whether the government had consulted him on a possible solution to the current crisis.

“I have not been that fortunate,” deadpanned Singh, a former Prime Minister and former finance minister who had pioneered economic liberalisation in the country during the watch of then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Amid peals of laughter, Singh was asked about his meeting with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “The finance minister came to see me just before she presented the budget. I gave her my good wishes,” Singh said.

The much-underrated politician wasn’t willing to give unsolicited advice to the government despite repeated questions during an interaction in Mumbai, organised by the Congress ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly polls.

“What should be done to fix the economic crisis will take a long time, but the immediate measure would be to vote in the Congress-NCP to power,” Singh added.

Earlier this week, Parakala Prabhakar, the husband of finance minister Sitharaman, had written in a column that the BJP lacked an economic road map and advised the Modi government to adopt the 1991 economic model put forward by Rao and Singh to address the current economic slowdown.

On Thursday, Singh responded to the criticism of his tenure by Sitharaman in the US less than 24 hours ago but the former Prime Minister did so with remarkable grace. Singh honestly dealt with the question of non-performing assets of banks, refusing to accuse his successor of inventing the problem.

“What happened did happen. There were some weaknesses. But this government has been in office for five and a half years, it should have learnt from our mistakes and provided credible solutions to those problems which are still affecting our economy. You may score some brownie points, but you are not finding solutions to the problems of the suffering humanity of our country,” Singh said.

“Nirav Modi and others ran away with public money. The problem in the banking sector worsened but year after year they say the fault lies with the UPA. Five and a half years are long enough a period for a government committed to public welfare to do some credible things. Merely passing the buck to the UPA is no solution to India’s problems,” Singh added.

On Sitharaman’s comment that Singh and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan were responsible for the worst phase of public sector banks, Singh said: “I won’t like to comment on that but I can merely point out that before one can fix the economy, one needs the correct diagnosis of its ailments and causes. The government is obsessed with trying to somehow fix the blame on its opponents.”

Singh said that while he supported the reduction of corporate taxes, the current problem related to a demand slowdown. To tackle this, the better route is to bring down indirect taxes, he added.

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