Fix economy, not headlines: Manmohan Singh

Mumbai: For a statesman who was a man of few words during his tenure as Prime Minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Manmohan Singh came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government for the economic slowdown.

Instead of defusing the economic crisis, the BJP government is busy laying the blame at the door of the UPA government, Singh said. He suggested Modi should instead focus on creating jobs and reducing indirect taxes.

"The government needs to at least fix the economic crisis, if it cannot diagnose the problem. They are blaming UPA for everything, instead of improving the situation. You may score some debating points by

passing the buck to the UPA, but this headline management will not help strengthen the economy," said Singh.

He added, "The main problem in our economy is the shortage of demand." Singh was addressing a select group of people comprising intellectuals, businessmen, economists and activists, at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday.

The event, titled 'Words of Wisdom on Indian Economy by Dr Manmohan Singh' was organised by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and the Mumbai Regional Congress.

He countered finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman for blaming the Congress for all the problems. ""You cannot claim year after year that the fault lay with the UPA (United Progressive Alliance), you have been in office for five-and-a-half years and that is a long enough period for a government committed to public welfare to do some credible things.

Merely passing the buck to UPA regime is no solution to India's problems," the former PM said. Talking about his tenure as prime minister between 2004 and 14, Singh said, "What happened did happen. There were some weaknesses.

But this government has been in office for five and a half years, it should have learnt from our mistakes and provided credible solutions to those problems which are still affecting our economy," he said.

"You may score some brownie points, but you are not finding solutions to the problems of the suffering humanity of our country," Singh added. "This government believes in headline management and not concrete solutions, that is the problem," he said.

He also said the "obsession" with managing inflation had led to various troubles in the farm sector, and added that Maharashtra had become the suicide capital of the country.

When asked how grave the problem of unemployment was, currently, Singh said, "In the last few years, instead of creating two crore jobs, more jobs have been destroyed.

We have to reverse the economic slowdown, they need to focus on labour-intensive industry, which will help generate jobs. We will also have to ensure that imports do not eat into our own economy."

He added, jobs cannot be created unless India achieves an economic growth rate of 8 to 10 per cent. "Currently, the Indian economy is around US$ 2.7 trillion and if the Modi government wants to make this a US$ 5 trillion one by 2024, growth rate should be 10 to 12 per cent.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already sounded the alarm by projecting our growth rate at 6.1 per cent, as against 7.3," he observed.

Singh said, since the Modi government had come to power, the economic growth rate had been declining every year. He said India would never be able to become a US$5

trillion economy by 2024, at this rate. When Singh was asked if anybody from the Modi government has sought his guidance on the economy? Singh pointedly said,

"I am not that fortunate." He added, Seetharaman had met him before presenting the budget and he had extended his good wishes.

Demonetisation led to slowdown: While answering if India's economic slowdown was due to the impact of global recession, Singh pointedly said the BJP government is responsible for this mess.

"The BJP government has contributed largely to this distress. Demonetisation was the main contributing factor that derailed India's economy. If there were no demonetisation, the global slowdown would not have affected our economy.

There is hardly any reputed institute which could find any benefit in the demonetisation decision. The IMF has recently reiterated my stand, which said, there was nearly 1.5 to 2 percentage points loss in the national income, due to the demonetisation," said Singh.