Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Independence Day address: PM Manmohan Singh blames lack of political consensus for slow growth

Independence Day address: PM Manmohan Singh blames lack of political consensus for slow growth

Clean Media Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Aug 15 (CMC): Battling the charge of policy paralysis in the government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday blamed lack of political consensus for slow growth and vowed to do everything to boost economy through investments while linking development processes to national security.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of historic Red Fort on the occasion of 66th Independence Day, he promised to work for reducing corruption in public life and sought the help of all political parties in passing the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill in Parliament in this regard.

During his 35-minute speech in Hindi, Singh made a host of announcements in social sector like expanding the national health scheme and electrification, undertaking skill development and assessment of teachers.

The 79-year-old economist Prime Minister also sought to encourage foreign investors, who have been apprehensive after certain recent taxation decisions, that there would be "no barriers" to investment in India.

He referred to violence in Assam and promised that the causes would be looked into and steps taken to ensure that such incidents are not repeated anywhere else.

He highlighted that internal security in the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, had improved but said the recent blasts in Pune were a reminder that more needed to be done.

In his ninth consecutive Independence Day address, only the third Prime Minister to do so after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Singh said there was a need to "introspect what remains to be done" so that "we learn from our failures and build on our successes".

"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," Singh said.

"Time has now come to view the issues which affect our development processes as matters of national security," he said.

The statement assumes significance as the government has been facing the charge of policy paralysis with key economic reforms decisions, like FDI in retail, being stuck due to opposition by allies.

The Prime Minister said India was being affected by the "difficult phase" encountered by the global economy.

"Also there have been domestic developments which are hindering our economic growth," he said, pointing out that last year, the GDP grew by 6.5 per cent.

Hoping to "do a little better" this year, Singh said, "I believe that this period of difficulties will not last long. Even as we face these problems, we should be encouraged by the fact that we have achieved extraordinary successes in many areas in the last 8 years. We now need to replicate these successes in newer areas."

He said the government will leave no stone unturned to encourage investment in the country so that entrepreneurs can make a substantial contribution to the economy.

"To attract foreign capital, we will have to create confidence at the international level that there are no barriers to investment in India," he said.

Foreign investors have been apprehensive after some recent decisions on tax matters like retrospective amendment and General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR).

Talking about corruption over which his government has been facing an onslaught from civil society and opposition, Singh said, "We will continue our efforts to bring more transparency and accountability in the work of public servants and to reduce corruption."

While doing so, steps will be taken to see that the morale of public functionaries taking decisions in public interest is not affected because of baseless allegations and unnecessary litigation, he said.

In this context, Singh referred to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha last year and is now pending with the Rajya Sabha.

"We hope that all political parties will help us in passing this Bill in the Rajya Sabha," he said.

"Our commitment to make the work of the government and administration transparent and accountable stands," he said.

"But we will also take care that these measures do not result in a situation in which the morale of public functionaries taking decisions in public interest gets affected because of baseless allegations and unnecessary litigation," the Prime Minister said.

He also referred to the Public Procurement Bill and said such measures will increase transparency in decision making.

Among the announcements, Singh said the National Rural Health Mission will be expanded to cover all towns of the country by converting the scheme into National Health Mission.

The NRHM was launched in 2005 to provide health services in every village in the country.

The Prime Minister said the government is also formulating a scheme for distribution of free medicines through government hospitals and health centres.

He said in a bid to create new job opportunities for youth in the coming years, government is making efforts to put in place a system for training 8 crore people in many new skills.

"We also wish to provide short duration training courses of 6 weeks to 6 months...the National Skill Development Council has formulated a major scheme for skill development in which 8 crore people will be trained in the next 5 years," he said.

He said the government is considering the establishment of a National Skill Development Authority so that skill development programmes all over the country can be implemented in a coordinated manner.

"We would also need contribution from the private sector and non-Governmental organisations in this work," the Prime Minister said.

He also said the government was targeting to provide electricity to each and every household in our country in the next 5 years and to also improve the supply of electricity

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