In a nationally televised address last evening, the prime minister accused the opposition of misleading the people and said the time had come to embrace “hard decisions” to revive the economy.
“The time has come for hard decisions. For this I need your trust, your understanding and your cooperation,” he said, comparing the situation with what prevailed in 1991 when India embraced sweeping economic reforms.
“We are at a point where we can reverse the slowdown in our growth. We need a revival in investor confidence domestically and globally,” he said. “The decisions we have taken recently are necessary for this purpose.”
The prime minister’s speech came hours after the TMC quit his government over the decisions to hike diesel prices, cap the supply of cooking gas cylinders and allow FDI in multi-brand retail trade.
In his speech, Singh defended all three decisions. He said that subsidy on petroleum products had grown enormously, and would have been over Rs 2,00,000 crore this year. “If we had not acted, it would have meant a higher fiscal deficit, that is, an unsustainable increase in government expenditure vis-a-vis government income.
On the decision to limit the number of cooking gas cylinders a family can get in a year, the PM said “almost half of our people ... actually use only six cylinders or less”. “We have ensured they are not affected. Others will still get six subsidised cylinders, but they must pay a higher price for more,” adding the price of common man’s fuel kerosene remained unchanged.
Singh denied accusations that allowing FDI in retail would hurt small traders. In Delhi, he said, despite the increasing number of shopping centres, there was a three fold increase in the number of small shops.