Absence of consensus upsets PM

Says it adversely affects economic growth, security

Absence of  consensus upsets PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday was optimistic that India’s economy would grow faster than last year’s 6.5 per cent despite a global slowdown, but said lack of political consensus was a hindrance to national security.

“As far as creating an environment within the country for rapid economic growth is concerned, I believe that we are not being able to achieve this because of a lack of political consensus on many issues. Time has now come to view the issues which affect our development processes as matters of national security,” Singh said in his speech on Independence Day.

Some of the much-needed reforms such as allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and the sensitive issue of subsidies on fuel, critical for giving a push to the slowing economy, have not reached a conclusion due to lack of consensus among the Opposition and government’s own allies.

Sluggish growth in gross domestic product, stubborn inflation, widening fiscal, trade and current account deficits and policy inertia have dampened sentiments and kept investors at bay.

Singh said his government would ensure steps to encourage investments to enable entrepreneurs to make a substantial contribution to the economy. He also promised to increase investment on infrastructure sector, crucial for sustained high growth of the country and creation of more employment opportunities.

The government “has taken some new measures” to accelerate infrastructure development. Concerned about rising prices of food items, Singh said it was essential to control inflation, but noted that bad monsoon and drought in some states may be a hindrance.

Singh said the government had taken steps to provide diesel, seeds, fodder and water to people in drought-hit areas. The country’s farm sector had clocked good growth last year and the foodgrain stocks would take care of the poor.

The PM announced a new housing scheme for rural and urban poor. To create new job opportunities for the youth, Singh said a specialised agency would be set up to train eight crore people in five years.

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