Our Politics Editor, Satyajit Mohanan, gives us a detailed look at an important figure in Indian politics
Many would wonder about the relevance behind my title, “Dr Singh, the FDR of India”, noting that there are many differences between Dr Manmohan Singh and Franklin D Roosevelt. However, my comparison solely pertains to the fact that both were progressive leaders who reformed the economies of their respective nations in response to a financial crisis. They managed to change the economic landscape of both countries. In short, they were the key architects of the present modern India and the United States of America.
Dr Manmohan Singh, the economist turned two-time Prime Minister of India is a recipient of honorary degrees from many Universities including the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. He was the second Prime Minister to be r-elected immediately after completing a full five-year term. He has held many reputed positions including the post of finance Minister , the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and also the Chief Economic Advisor of India.
His work has also earned India the tag “the fastest growing economy in the world”.
Dr Manmohan Singh during his tenure as the Finance Minister transformed the Indian economy. He was one of the key architects of the 1991 economic liberalisation reforms, the others being the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao and the then Commerce Minister P Chidambaram. The reform saw the abolition of the license raj (a period where there was extensive licensing and regulation by the government). The 1991 liberalisation reforms resulted in India becoming a more market oriented economy and it also expanded the role of the private sector and increased foreign direct investment (FDI) into India. He is also credited for having tackled the balance of payment problems in 1991 and restoring stability in the economy. There was a tremendous increase in the growth rate post the 1991 reforms. Later in 2004 the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was elected to power with Dr Manmohan Singh as its Prime Minister. The UPA ruled for two terms from 2004 to 2014. The UPA-1 Government turned out to be one of the most successful governments in India since Independence. Dr Singh’s inclusive policies gave India monumental Acts and legislations. The alluring and impressive factor was the ‘inclusiveness’ that was present in his policies, benefiting a large number of people. Transparency was brought in governmental institutions by the enactment of the Right to Information Act (2005). Similar game changing legislations were brought in various sectors including farming, education, and finance. Agricultural growth saw a steep rise and social welfare schemes brought about by the government provided rural employment to many rural households. The UPA government also achieved the highest decadal growth rate of 8.2% since Independence. India witnessed a historic double-digit growth rate of 10.1% between 2006-7. He is credited for maintaining stability during and after the 2008 financial crisis. India’s growth rate in 2008-9 was 6.72% , it had reduced 2.6 percentage points in comparison to the rate of 9.36 percent in 2007-8. Yes, mistakes did happen in the last term of the UPA government , corruption allegations taunted the government and the economy witnessed a considerable decline in the growth rate. However , the present popular Modi government with a brute majority has achieved only a growth rate of 7.34% in four years , and has failed to match up to the growth rate of UPA-2 which was around 7.68%.This comparison is essential because the UPA was a coalition government whereas the Modi government has a brute majority and also was blessed with buoyancy in the world economy in the first three years of the term.
Dr Singh’s reforms and policies will endure and continue to help India. Perhaps I am not wrong in my comparison.