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Indian PM says govt must ‘do better’ as woes mount

May 23, 2012

NEW DELHI:  Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has acknowledged the “large unfinished agenda” facing his government after three years in power, and vowed to tackle corruption and fiscal mismanagement.

“I will be the first to say we need to do better,” Singh said late Tuesday as he presented his graft-tainted coalition’s annual report card at a function in New Delhi.

Singh’s second term in office has been marked by slowing economic growth, accusations of policy paralysis and a series of corruption scandals that have combined to undermine optimism about India’s future development.

“Some people have questioned the sustainability of our growth process. I am confident we will prove the sceptics wrong,” Singh said, after listing achievements such as progress tackling poverty and improving primary education.

India’s economy is predicted to have grown 6.9 percent in the last fiscal year to March 2012, the slowest pace since the 2008 global financial crisis, while widening trade and current account deficits have added to concerns.

The Indian rupee has fallen to record lows against the dollar in recent days, reflecting declining foreign fund inflows and frustration among potential foreign investors about India’s inability to push through reforms.

Singh said that his government must “remove implementation bottlenecks that are preventing large projects from getting off the ground… (and) quicken the pace of implementation of our policies of inclusive growth.”

“I recognise that we face pressures on our balance of payments and that the fiscal situation requires careful management,” added Singh, 79, a softly-spoken former academic who is often accused of failing to provide strong leadership.

Singh, who first came to power in 2004, has seen his reputation badly damaged in recent years by corruption scandals linked to organisation of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the sale of mobile phone licences.

The telecoms ministry’s under-selling of 2G (second-generation) phone licences to selected firms is thought to have cost the government up to $40 billion in lost revenue.

“We know there is public frustration and anger on the issue of corruption,” Singh said, vowing to address the problem through measures including a long-delayed anti-corruption bill.



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