Time calls PM an underachiever

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who as India’s finance minister in 1991 ushered in reforms that liberalised the economy, has been termed by Time magazine as an “underachiever” and criticised for not acting decisively when the economy is slowing.

The magazine features 79-year-old Manmohan Singh on the cover of its Asia edition dated July 16, 2012 with the blurb, “The Underachiever. India needs a reboot. Is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh up to the job?” The cover story, titled “A Man in Shadow”, says the prime minister appears “unwilling to stick his neck out” on reforms that will put the country back on growth path.

Lost face? The cover of Time’s Asia edition dated July 16, 2012.

The Asia edition, which will be out next week, goes on to say, “Investors at home and abroad are beginning to get cold feet. Voters too are losing confidence, as rising inflation and a litany of scandals chip away at the government’s credibility.”

The magazine says that Singh, who has been accused of “policy paralysis” by the opposition, “seems unable to control his ministers and — his new, temporary portfolio at the finance ministry notwithstanding — unwilling to stick his neck out on reforms that will continue the process of liberalisation he helped start.”

Manmohan Singh has taken over the finance portfolio with Pranab Mukherjee quitting to contest the presidential election

The magazine said at a time when India cannot afford a slowdown in economic growth, “laws that could help create growth and jobs are stuck in Parliament, sparking concerns that politicians have lost the plot in their focus on shorter-term, populist measures that will win votes.”

India’s economic growth slumped to nine-year low of 5.3 per cent in the quarter ended March 31, 2012. The gross domestic product growth fell to 6.5 per cent in 2011-12 as compared to 8.4 per cent the previous year. “India is stalling. To turn it around, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must emerge from his private and political gloom,” the magazine adds. 

Manmohan Singh’s government has been shackled by the pulls and pressures of coalition partners, especially TMC chief Mamata Banerjee who has staunchly opposed allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, which economists say will greatly help the economy. Banerjee reiterated her opposition to allowing FDI in multi-brand retail on Saturday in West Bengal. “That’s our government’s policy,” she said. 

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