Lack of political consensus hurting economy, says PM (Intro Roundup)

August 15th, 2012 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) Lack of political consensus had hurt India’s economic growth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday in an Independent Day speech that was shorn of rhetoric or lofty promises and focused essentially on domestic concerns.

Addressing the nation on India’s 66th Independence Day from the Red Fort, Manmohan Singh also vowed to battle corruption while ensuring that sincere officials were not affected by baseless allegations of wrongdoing.

Making his ninth speech from the Red Fort, the prime minister spoke of inflation and Maoist insurgency, referred to Kashmir and Assam, but steered clear of foreign policy, including Pakistan, or India’s global stature - a favourite topic at most times. Instead, with an eye on the 2014 general elections, he emphasised on pressing domestic concerns.

While lauding the improvement in situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the falling violence in India’s northeast, he said Maoists remained a major concern.

“Communal harmony has to be maintained at all costs… The incidents which occurred in Pune in the beginning of this month point to the need for much more work to be done in the area of national security,” he said, referring to the recent Pune blasts.

According to the prime minister, India was unable to create the environment for rapid economic growth “because of a lack of political consensus on many issues”.

The economist-turned-politician, who became prime minister in May 2004, did not dwell on the issues that were eluding a political consensus.

Again, without elaborating, he referred to “domestic developments which are hindering our economic growth”.

Despite 20 years of widely acclaimed economic reforms, the political establishment is still divided on certain growth issues. In recent times, the government has faced flak from the opposition as well as its allies such as Trinamool Congress on allowing foreign direct investment in retail trade, strongly favoured by the US.

India, he said, cannot escape the global economic crisis. But the country’s GDP growth would still be “a little better” than last year’s 6.5 percent. The 12th Five Year Plan would lay down measures to increase the economic growth rate from 6.5 to 9 percent in the last year of the Plan, he added.

Manmohan Singh, however, warned that controlling inflation would had become tougher because of this year’s poor monsoon.

“This period of difficulties will not last long,” he added.

A day after yoga guru Baba Ramdev ended his fast against corruption and black money, the prime minister said his government would take steps to battle corruption.

“We will continue our efforts to bring more transparency and accountability in the work of public servants and to reduce corruption,” he said, reading out a prepared speech in Hindi from a bulletproof cubicle.

“But we will also take care that those measures do not result in a situation in which the morale of public functionaries… gets affected because of baseless allegations and unnecessary litigation.”

He hoped that the Rajya Sabha would soon pass the Lokpal and Lokayukta bills already cleared by the Lok Sabha.

In a reference to Assam, where ethnic violence claimed over 70 lives, he said authorities were doing everything possible to provide relief to everyone.

Manmohan Singh also outlined his government’s successes — almost all villages had been electrified, and the government’s target was to provide electricity to every household in India in the next five years.

The government was also formulating a scheme to give away free medicines through government hospitals and health centres.

“It will be our endeavour to ensure that all households benefit from bank accounts in the next two years.”

The prime minister also called for speedy infrastructure development, and said the planned Indian mission to Mars “will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology”.

Manmohan Singh concluded his speech on a positive note.

“No power in the world can stop our country from achieving new heights of progress and development.”

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