Manmohan Singh can still go out with a bang
July 25th, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Manmohan Singh can still go out with a bang

By Fareed Zakaria

Are things looking gloomy for India? The country’s annual economic growth rate slipped to 5.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, the slowest in a decade, and a poll out last week shows analysts slashing their growth forecasts for this year.

Yet India remains an incredibly promising economy.

First, India overall is still very poor, and so there’s a lot of room to move up. Its per capita GDP is still only about a third that of China’s, and it still has huge advantages in terms of low cost of labor; it has a long way to go before it even becomes a middle income country.

There’s also enormous entrepreneurial energy in India, and you can see that in the success of Indian companies, which is continuing even in these rough times – many firms continue to grow dramatically. And the domestic economy, outside exports, remains very vibrant and growing.

The problem India has is that there are some crucial areas where it needs government policy to move forward, and yet you have a broken political system with a very weak central government and a coalition that has been completely unable to move forward.

But I have some hope that India now has a chance to meet its potential with the prime minister having taken on the finance minister’s portfolio. This is significant because the prime minister is Manmohan Singh, the architect of India’s reforms and a man who understands India’s problems very, very clearly. Indeed, he has articulated these issues often.

The problem, it appears to me, is that the government doesn’t feel it has the political capacity to get its way. It has been trying on a number of fronts and keeps getting blocked. It needs to be bold, articulate the reforms that the government is going to pursue, try to get as much through parliament as possible, and push the rest through his own executive power. There are lots of things that could be done in India just by changing sentiment.

India still has plenty of room for maneuver – remember India has among the highest interest rates in the world, so if its central bank were just to lower its interest rates by 1 percent or 1.5 percent, that could unlock business activity. But of course, this could only happen after a set of agriculture reforms to ensure that food prices don’t go up too fast.

There is a path to high growth again, and it’s a path that you have to hope that Singh – perhaps the most incorruptible figure in Indian politics – moves onto.

Singh wants to go down in history as India’s great reformer, and he did unlock the economy in the early 1990s. But he needs to complete the process with a second wave of reforms. Singh is 80 years-old. The next two years will be his last two years in public life. The question is, does he want to go out with a bang?

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Topics: India

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Karanja Mose

    If India is to win the decade, it must not play second fiddle to China-as it is perfectly doing in Africa and emerging markets-but instead, it should go out boldly and claim its rightful place.

    July 25, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
  2. Dinesh Chand

    Sonia Gandhi is looting the country. Needless to say that our PM is helping her. Disaster of Democracy!!!

    July 25, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Singh's government has been hit by several high-profile corruption cases, but he denied there was rampant graft. I think Singh himself is one the few exceptions in India, that have integrity.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  3. Anu

    Fareed- your article on Singh is romantizes Singh way too much! He has been a lame duck prime minister and is answerable for all the policies that his government has been running, including those run by the outgoing Finance Minister. Why should Indians worry about whether Singh goes with a bang- he and his corrupt party are responsible for the decline and are sure to lose at the hustings.

    July 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed Singh was a brillant economist and should have stayed in his old job. He was taken on board by Sonja Gandhi. As prime minister, he seems to be at her bididng and has lost his credibility.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  4. Mehool Parekh

    Fareed: I sort of agree with what you are saying but there is serious doubt whether Singh is even half the man he used to be. At times he seems strangely attracted towards trying to leave a legacy of political peace with a troublesome neighbor and quite a few people think that he is only interested in completing a two-term Prime Ministership – something that will no doubt leave a legacy as being the only non Nehru-Gandhi family PM to do so. When it seems that he is aiming that low, expecting him to be bold and assertive seems a bit too much to dream. For our sake, lets just hope that he does find stirrings of assertion within himself despite a horrendous track record of having lead one of the most corrupt and ineffective governments in recent memory or even maybe of all times.

    July 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
    • muslim traitor

      You accuse Singh of a slew of things without any proof.

      July 25, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
  5. Hahahahahahahahaa

    Start taxing TATA more!!!!!! Hahahahahahahahahahaha

    July 25, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
  6. Say It As You See It ©


    July 25, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • Joseph

      Hi ! you missed a few like LeT and Jaishe-Muhammad. By the way these organisations produce hundred times more destruction and communal problems than the ones you mentioned. Nice research.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
      • Haji Abdullah

        They are freedom fighters programmed to take your kind down at minimal cost. Sound familiar. I am sure it is coming back to you now.

        July 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
      • joseph

        Haji Abdullah- Oh, really is that why they killed and tortured kahmiri pandits and threw them out of their homes.Is that why they are killing innocent women and children all over the world. Islam is an intolerant religion and these losers are just blindly following the teachings which can at best be described as fit for 7th century middle east.

        July 27, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • harry

      hey if u r saying all this party r terrorist then what about simi......what about huriyat conforance .......u must be d one belongs these partys

      August 19, 2012 at 5:36 am | Reply
  7. Jeetu


    A recent report by United Press trust of India (UPI) stated that during the past three years more than 2,500 young boys and girls were sacrificed to goddess Kali in India. Another of AFP's recent reports say: hundreds of young boys and virgin girls are sacrificed every month for the deity Kali. In one case Rama Sewak hacked his eight year old son to death in broad daylight in Delhi because goddess Kali had told him he would come back to life and bring him good fortune. Bloodthirsty Kali is worshipped openly the length and breadth of India. Kali's statue stands naked astride the inanimate body of the Hindu deity Shiva, tongue stuck out with blood dripping from fang-like teeth. She holds a noose, a skull-topped staff, a blood-encrusted sword and a severed head. She is also known as Durga, Devi, Shaktima, Uma and Parvathi in other manifestations. The priest of Delhi, Kali Bari, says that a child sacrificed to Kali ensures a man the birth of a son. Human sacrifices are also made to these gods or goddesses, either to appease them or to ask favours of them.

    July 25, 2012 at 11:48 am | Reply
  8. Jerry T

    This guy a taliban or what? Sure they have the right picture. Towelhead and beard are sure signs of terrorists.

    July 25, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • Nina

      No, a sure sign of jihadist behaviour is hate mongering and the total lack of comprehension of other religions.
      Then you have a Jihadist doing allah's work.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Reply
    • Jacoby

      Looks like al qaeda to me.

      July 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  9. VK

    There are many problem dimensions with India. It is basically a corrupt and lawless country.Fixing the economy is a way off thing, there are many internal problems even to the extent that, it is highly doubtful even if the union of India will survive though it is not immediately imminent, but it is highly likely to happen.India is next to the brink of disaster with its weak political and economy system unlike China.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  10. Joseph McCarthy

    What India needs to do is to make the Maoist Movement a part of their government in stead of just fighting them as no true democracy excludes people with different political views. That country needs to look to China as a primary example of how Marxist idea can help and also quit listening to the politicians in Washington who never really did anything to aliviate that country's poverty!

    July 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  11. Joseph McCarthy

    Well said, saeed. One of the reasons that there is so much poverty in India today is because of all the wealth that the British took out of that country during the 200 year colonial rule(1756-1947) and today Great Britain is little more than a subservient state to Washington D.C.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • Whitby & Hesperus ©

      You kiddin me? Poverty has always been Indian DNA. That is why British came to begin with. Why did you think they took hindus to Caribbean as slaves in the sugar plantations? Because they were billionaires? Give me a break. the Moghals gave the hindus all the wealth and the Birtish took some of it away. Rest went to maharajas

      July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  12. Louis Drummond

    Did you notice the flea in this guy's beard. Disgusting. He needs to be fumigated. Are all indians this filthy?

    July 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Reply
    • Hari

      Fareed Zakaria ...yes you have rightly pointed out that the problem with India is policy paralysis. What we all want to see from Singh may not come, because there is no support within the coalition...the smaller parties within the government themselves don't want Singh to succeed. 2009 election saw congress coming back in a big way because of the success of Singh with a difficult communist as an ally in UPA 1. Both the smaller parties and BJP very well know that no single party can form a government in 2014 and just want to make as much as political gains from the current policy paralysis of coalition and is trying to bog down Singh and his government. There is also the so called civil society of Anna hazare turning political and blaming the Singh Govt alone for whole of sins of last 50 years. Majority of the internet population is also against Govt as they have been shown about scams and controversies in media.( which was actually committed by smaller party allies of UPA 1) . Also there is also lot of false propaganda going on in the internet (If you can check any Indian's FB page there will be a post of top Indians {- includes the honest Manmohan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, BJP's Advani to name a few} who have stashed their black money in swiss bank and they say it was leaked by Wikileaks–this story was officially confirmed Fake by Wikileaks but this story continue to be posted and re posted and spreading like fire still) They don't know the goods of Mr Singh and what he did in 1991 and 2005-09 period. The opposition and smaller parties have almost won the battle and Mr Singh with Finance portfolio is the last leaf standing before their 2014 victory.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  13. Whitby & Hesperus ©

    HUMPTY DUMPTY: Had a great fall
    India is pretty much done. The bubble has burst. India is sliding downhill at supersonic speed. GDP growth has disappeared...the only growth left is the hair between their legs. All the Bhajans could not put india back together again.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • Bearbull

      @Whitby & Hesperus © – how ignorant fool ur...there are no other bandits in this world like British. This is the true perception about the British in this world. What they looted from India in 200years, can keep them rich for another 1000 years. India was the Richest nation on the planet before the moguls and the British. Look into the books by your own western historians , the wealth of this nation baffled them. Even today the diamond worn by a British queen in her crown(Kohinoor), is the one stolen by British from India.

      July 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Reply
  14. Gomez

    The only bang that this guy can go out with is the taliban bidda boong bidda bang !! LOL !!!

    July 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  15. Gomez

    What are you smoking sadhu? It took 5 talibans to take over the country !!! India has not amounted to much in its existence. A slave nation at best. Will always be that in future.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  16. Freize

    India (land of the bankers to terrorists) is geographically, culturally and politically trapped, isolated and encircled. Now that it has been cut off from rest of Asia, the Indians (unfortunately) have nowhere to go but into the ocean. A look at a map conveys the inevitability of this scenario. For India to survive, it has no choice but to have excellent relations with Pakistan. This is a matter of time. The question is whether Pakistan has a big heart to accommodate the very survival of India/Hindu race. Perhaps not this time around.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • Joseph

      Pakistan is a failed state. India is a an emerging superpower. Enough said.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
      • Jacoby

        seems like you did your ganja today.

        July 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
      • Jacoby

        India ....superpower???? A couple of talibans took it down with a few bb guns and you call it a super power???? Are you nuts ???? ROFL

        July 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
      • joseph


        July 27, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  17. Samuel Brinckerhoff PhD

    The sum of parts of India is greater than the whole. Period. Let us start thinking of names for these fledgling states. Some of them could be Sikharkana, Biharistan, Moghalistan etc.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Reply
    • joseph

      You dont know anything about india . Moghalistan- where did you come up with that.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:25 am | Reply
  18. joseph

    On 9/11 america was attacked by taliban and the destruction was much greater in terms of number of lifes lost and economic losses. It doesnt mean USA is not powerful. India has risen fast to a very prominent position on the world stage. That is why it can be called an emerging superpower.Jacoby you dont need ganja you are already out of your mind.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:21 am | Reply
  19. Lolwut

    Fareed talks out both sides of his face - I saw him on Indian TV interview where he said that India was poised to overtake the US in terms of the meddle class.

    July 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
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    October 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Reply

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