Manmohan Singh will be in much demand at G20: Financial Times (Lead)

April 1st, 2009 - 7:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh London, April 1 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be sought after at the G20 summit, says the Financial Times that has a full-page interview with him ahead of the crucial meeting here Thursday to find a way out of the worst global economic crisis in several decades.
“The economist, who leads the world’s biggest democracy, will be in demand at the G20, but back home in India, Manmohan Singh faces a hard fight,” the newspaper said in the only full-fledged interview with any of the G20’s participating leaders.

The interview said the prime minister, who arrived in London late Tuesday, appeared rather robust, if not tired, and that it was hard to believe the 76-year-old, who pursued his higher education in economics in this city, had undergone a quintuple heart bypass surgery barely two months ago.

Based on the interaction, the newspaper said the Indian prime minister was expected to be quite direct at the meeting - which will include his host and British counterpart Gordon Brown and US President Barack Obama - and intended to use his position to advocate the interests of all developing countries hit by the financial meltdown.

“An agreement for effective, credible fiscal stimulus is the responsibility of all major economies,” Manmohan Singh said in the interview that also acknowledged his mannerism of delivering his messages across in soft, measured tomes.

The interview is also accompanied by a box on the Gandhis, saying the real power in India in the past five years was not at the prime minister’s residence but at 10, Janpath - the address of Italian-born Congress party president Sonia Gandhi in the Indian capital, who heads the ruling coalition.

The paper also remarks that the lack of political base for Manmohan Singh “might threaten the prospects of Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul” - described as the heir apparent to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

The interview also remarks that more than 40 years ago, Manmohan Singh had set out his vision of his country’s future in a book - entitled “India’s Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth” - in which he had slammed his country’s inward looking development strategy.

“After stints in government, academia, the UN and as head of Reserve Bank of India, he got to practise what he preached. As finance minister in 1991-96, Singh presided over the opening of India’s economy with free-market reforms.”

The free-wheeling interview - the full text of which was published in the online edition - dwelt with issues not just reserved to the current global financial turmoil but also Pakistan, terrorism and his scheduled bilateral engagement with Obama Friday.

But on his agenda for G20, he was categorical that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) needed a new monitoring body - an “expert crew” - to ensure that any stimulus packages agreed at the meeting were sustained and maintained next year.

Such a body could be inside or outside the institution and would ensure that each country was doing its bit, he said, amid a transatlantic spat over the need for fiscal stimulus.

The US and Britain say the G20 summit must agree on a fiscal stimulus package, but France and Germany have opposed it, saying they want a tighter regulation of financial markets instead of bailout packages.

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