Singh, who had a tough time politically in 2011, departed from the perfunctory New Year messages that Prime Ministers make and came out with a 3145-word political statement. The UPA-2, which took office in 2009, has hurtled from one corruption crisis to another. During the period, Singh has come under sharp attack over poor governance while some of his former colleagues are languishing in jail.
“We also need reforms in systems of government which would increase transparency and minimise discretion so that the scope of misgovernance is reduced,” he said, emphasising that he will personally “work to provide an honest and more efficient government, a more productive, competitive and robust economy and a more equitable and just social and political order”.
The prime minister said the foremost challenge facing the country is poverty. “I call this the challenge of Livelihood Security,” Singh said. Alongside, he vowed to focus more on education and healthcare for the rural poor. “Along with education and affordable health care, we must also generate a growth process that can provide gainful employment to all. This is the only way that we can wipe out poverty in a sustainable fashion,” he said.
He said he is concerned about the country’s fiscal stability. “Our fiscal deficit has worsened in the past three years. This is mainly because we took a conscious decision to allow a larger fiscal deficit in 2009-10 in order to counter the global slowdown,” Singh noted. He added that it was the right policy at the time. “But like other countries that resorted to this strategy, we have run out of fiscal space and must once again begin the process of fiscal consolidation. This is important to ensure that our growth process is not jeopardised and, equally important, our national sovereignty and self respect are not endangered.”
Without naming any proposed policy initiatives, Singh called for initiating steps for rapid growth to ensure adequate job creation. “Rapid growth is also necessary to generate the revenues we need to finance our livelihood security programmes.”
Said Singh: “Economic security comes from having an economy that can produce the material output required to achieve desired consumption levels for the people and one that can generate the productive jobs needed to satisfy the aspirations of the workforce.”
He said it is unwise to delay the next stage of economic reforms. “We should remember that change is necessary for development and while we must anticipate change, and even protect the most vulnerable from ill effects, we should not lock ourselves into a blind refusal to contemplate change.”
—Our Bureau | New Delhi
PMSpeak Key Issues Manmohan Singh spoke about
On Challenges These will be on top of our policy agenda this year — Livelihood Security (education, food, health and employment), Economic Security, Energy Security, Ecological Security and National Security
On Reforms Some reforms needed for economic security attract controversy... but we should learn from our past experience with reforms. Things we take for granted today caused similar controversy 20 years ago.
On Subsidies Some subsidies such as food subsidies are justifiable on social grounds and are expected to expand once the Food Security bill becomes operational. But there are other subsidies that are not and must be contained.
On Pre-Liberalisation Days To get a railway ticket or a telephone connection you had to bribe someone. To buy a scooter you had to bribe someone to jump the queue!
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