Delivering the valedictory address at the day-long National Economy Conclave organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies in New Delhi on November 29, Friday, evening, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed the economic trouble of the country on the atmosphere of fear and mistrust created by the Narendra Modi government across the country.
“The state of the economy is a reflection of the state of the society,” he said. Singh said for an economy to grow robust, the climate in the country needed to change from one of ‘fear’ into one of ‘confidence’. “One cannot separate society from the economy in any nation,” he said. “The state of the economy is worrisome but the state of the society is more worrisome,” he added.
“Mere changes in economic policy will not help the economy,” the former Prime Minister said, adding that mutual exchanges between individuals and institutions lead to creation of trust and confidence. “The social fabric of the country has been torn and ruptured…there is a palpable climate of fear,” said Singh.
Industrialists are afraid to invest, bankers are afraid to lend money and entrepreneurs are afraid to experiment, he said. He maintained that tech start-ups were under constant surveillance and deep suspicion.
“Everybody is scared to speak truth or engage in honest policy discussion…Public trust in individual institutions like the media, judiciary, investigating agencies has eroded…All this is stifling the economy,” Singh told the audience.
Singh also came down upon the government of the day for seeing everything that the previous government had done through a tinted glass. “They try to act as saviour…demonetisation was disastrous,” he said.
Singh nonetheless added that no matter how much the Modi government tries to window dress economic figures, no amount of subterfuge could hide the state of a $3-trillion economy of 1.2 billion people.
“We are not a tiny command and control economy anymore that can be bullied or managed by colourful headlines and shutting down data flow,” he said.
Singh called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to utilise his absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and low global oil prices to catapult India into the next trajectory of growth.
But to do that, the Prime Minister must end the culture of deep-rooted suspicion in the society and nurse the country back to a society of trust and confidence, he added this note of caution.