Manmohan Singh - The Reformer Who Never Was

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Vyom, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    When Manmohan Singh was sworn in as India's 13th prime minister in 2004, few would have guessed that the country's highest political office would end up diminishing a leader widely admired at home and abroad. But today with GDP growth slowing, the rupee softening and the stock market in a funk, it's time to reassess the prime minister's record.

    Nearly eight years after taking office, Mr. Singh has little to show for it. Instead of using his position as a bully pulpit for reform, the 79-year-old presides over a government synonymous with policy paralysis and reckless populism. Its best known ideas include an unwieldy make-work scheme that distorts labor markets and breeds corruption, a misguided education policy that threatens to drown India's few excellent private schools in a sea of mediocrity and an ill-conceived food security bill proposal that will funnel subsidized grain toward the majority of the country's 1.2 billion citizens.

    India's reform agenda has become something of a joke. Instead of stepping up privatization, Mr. Singh's government lavishes taxpayer rupees on bloated state-owned companies such as the national carrier, Air India. Regressive labor laws that make it difficult for businesses to hire and fire workers stall the progress of millions from farm to factory. A forest of red tape places India a lowly 132nd on the World Bank's annual Ease of Doing Business rankings, between the Palestinian Territories and Nigeria.

    Yet if we remember, most people expected Mr. Singh to cut through this red tape and unshackle the private sector. For many Indians, Mr. Singh, a soft-spoken economist with a reputation for probity, stood apart from the assorted ruffians and rabble rousers who make up the bulk of the political class. Overseas, he was best known as the face of India's economic reforms, the Oxford-educated finance minister who in 1991 boldly freed Asia's third-largest economy from the License Raj.

    In hindsight, the prime minister ought to have been seen all along as less of a reformer and more of a faceless technocrat. Yes, as the finance minister who kicked off reforms in 1991, Mr. Singh scrapped industrial licensing, slashed import duties and made room for the private sector in businesses once reserved for government. But he did so in the face of a severe foreign-exchange crisis and under a prime minister, P. V. Narasimha Rao, who saw how the socialist pieties of his Congress Party had kept India poor.

    Before becoming finance minister, Mr. Singh actually showed little promise as a reformer. He had spent much of the previous two decades—as chief economic advisor to the government, head of the Soviet-style Planning Commission and governor of the Reserve Bank of India, among other positions—propping up the very socialist edifice he later sought to dismantle.

    If observers had taken a close look at the nature of this long career, they would have had more realistic expectations. They should have seen that in 1991, Mr. Singh pushed reforms because his boss told him to. Put simply, his programs reflect his boss's priorities and always have.

    So since 2004, the prime minister has done what he usually does: take cues from his current boss. Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi has been preoccupied with a series of grandiose welfare schemes similar in inspiration, if not always in detail, to those associated with her late mother-in-law, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. With neither a crisis nor a relatively reformist boss giving him cover for the few right instincts he may himself have, Mr. Singh championed the Congress mantra of "inclusive growth," meaning redistribution.

    As long as India's economy was humming along near double-digit growth rates, Mr. Singh's image as a reformer remained largely unquestioned. In the international community, where India is widely touted as an economic rival to China, he has effectively been given a free pass. At G-20 meetings he's viewed as some sort of economic sage—confusing his personality for his policy.

    The Congress-led coalition rode to power in 2004 on an implicitly antireform platform. Immediately after he took office, Mr. Singh decided to dismantle the separate ministry for privatization the previous government had created and shortly thereafter launched the rural jobs scheme. Even at that point, if people had paid less attention to the prime minister's resume as an economist and finance minister and more to his government's programs, a different picture would have emerged.

    Only now that the good times are over are people waking up to the damage the Congress-led coalition has done. Last month, Goldman Sachs's Jim O'Neill, best known for inventing the term BRIC for the world's largest developing economies, said India's performance was the most disappointing of the four countries in the grouping. Against the backdrop of Europe's troubles, Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley Asia says India's economy is at greater risk of a hard landing than China's.

    Mr. Singh has his work cut out for him. Either he begins finally to deliver on reforms or he gets used to the idea that history will remember him not as someone who rescued India's economy, but as the leader who prevented it from attaining its full potential. A large privatization and another go at a failed effort to invite large stores such as Wal-Mart to invest in Indian retail may be a good place to start. The usual litany of excuses about coalition politics, impending state elections and a mindless opposition simply won't cut it for the history books.

    The Reformer Who Never Was
     
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  3. tiranga

    tiranga Tihar Jail Banned

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    For some reason, we always elect heroes who turn out to be nothing more than another political character, the best way to curb this is to selectively curb the bribers, but still Indians haven't learned a thing about congrass from the lokpal incident I'm 100% sure congi will win this time too
     
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  4. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    which party wants lokpal ?

    they all colluded to fool public
     
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  5. tiranga

    tiranga Tihar Jail Banned

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    See, proof of what I was saying congrassi supporter ... Sorry bro...
     
  6. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    speak sense.

    your logic is sound though because you have labelled me congress supporter because i said no party wants lokpal. i would be congress supporter if i said congress wants lokpal but bjp didn't let it pass.
     
  7. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Not questioning the merit of the article in the opening post, I have notices a generous number of Manmohan bashing threads in the recent months.

    Now, to question the merit of the title of the article in the opening post, if not the article itself, if Manmohan Singh has to be evaluated as a reformer, then why focus only on his Prime Ministerial tenure? How about we look into the things he did as Finance Minister?
     
  8. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    you are congress supporter....your excuses will not cut it here :)
     
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  9. sukhish

    sukhish Senior Member Senior Member

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    yeah,
    we always elect somebody whom is not in sync with the DFI members. this is the way pakistani army thinks about its own govt, and no wonder they fighting with each other. we did elect NDA once, and we all know how that worked. atleast we are not gifting terriorists away to pakistan.
     
  10. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    ....:popcorn:....
     
  11. sukhish

    sukhish Senior Member Senior Member

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    poeple in this forum can't stand manmohan, they want the saffaron ( RSS khakhi ) chest thumping brigade to take over this country, so that all the ills could be cured. this exactly the same way PA feels and that's why they in this mess. it's good that people of India are much sanier than some of the chest beating members of the DFI forum.
     
  12. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    I still deeply admire your leader. Reminds me of Dr. Mahathir, without the dictatorial streak. But this is also Mr. Sing's undoing since without this quality he'll be hostaged by backward politicians, which is I think what's happening now.

    My 2 cents.
     
  13. Blackwater

    Blackwater Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    WHY blame MMS, our finance minister is mukherjee, ask him...
     
  14. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    My vote goes to him or some one who can come close to him i that aspect. I don't want pansies as PMs

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    It is sad that here was a man who was seen to be a Messiah, but is now appearing as if gone to seed!

    Politics is a cruel leveller!
     
  16. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    It is always the Captain of the ship who is responsible for a ship!

    It is futile to pass the blame.

    Most of the times, MMS was on his bunk and not on the bridge!
     
  17. sukhish

    sukhish Senior Member Senior Member

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    Ray,
    Indian politics is not for faint harted. also he is not gone. he do the best possible he can with full honesty.
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    He has not gone.

    However, his presence is also not felt.

    What is so great about steering a ship with full honesty when all that has been done is to have the ship run aground?
     
  19. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    Indira Gandhi was our only PM with ****s...:laugh:
     
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  20. anoop_mig25

    anoop_mig25 Senior Member Senior Member

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    why bring rss in into it. the upa1 which enjoyed the benefits because of ploicies of NDA . look at rahul gandhi speeches for UP elections he still reminds people about bjp`s 1999 india shinig campaning . doesnt congrees has something offer from its second term.

    they said it was left which was blocking congress reform move . now where is left. except tmc most of congress allies are neither pro-reform or against reform.it congress first family and surrounding chamas which are still living in old age.

    why most hate MMS because he doesnt exhbits power which he helds.
     
  21. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    It was PVN Rao I believe who took ownership of the reforms initiated in 1992 when India was near bankruptcy holding PM ship as well as portfolio of Industry Minister. He is so to say the person who drank the `vish ka piyala` among Congress party persons in having taken all the risks in pushing through the reforms that were desperately required at the time. I had read that MMS was not his first choice (3rd choice in fact!) to take on the responsibility of FM. Also that when he had circulated the proposed reforms among some of his own party men he was advised to put in a few paragraphs to describe how the reforms were in line with the thoughts of great leaders Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi! MMS of course is a highly qualified person in his own field but I doubt he had the personality or energy or guts to push through the radical reforms that were opposed by Congress leaders themselves. Unfortunately PVNR is dead and gone and buried by Congress party and did not live long enough to see the effect of the reforms on India economy. RIP PVN! (This does not take away from the part played by MMS in 1992 though...)
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2012

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