Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday met top industry leaders including Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata as part of an exercise in stock-taking of the economy.
The meeting of the Prime Minister’s 23-member council on trade and industry was held at a time when the UPA government is battling charges of policy paralysis, a series of scandals and concerns among investors that the government will not push through reforms in key areas such as pensions, retail trade and corporate governance.
“Many of you have raised, from time to time, concerns with regard to domestic policy,” Singh said. “We would request you to appreciate that almost every major government decision has to be negotiated in the larger democratic arena. This is especially true of sensitive issues like acquisition of land, and environmental concerns.”
“In a democratic polity like ours and in the era of coalition politics, it often becomes necessary for the government to build a broad consensus on major public policy issues. This may sometimes take longer than what we would like,” he added. Obliquely hinting at the two open letters written by a group of 14 eminent industrialists including Deepak Parekh and Azim Premji, the prime minister said it was “a little disappointing to sometimes hear negative comments emanating from our business leadership or be told that government policies are causing slowdown and pessimism in the industrial sector.”
“Such comments have added to uncertainty and have emboldened those who have no stake in our economic growth… corruption and better governance also require firm handling. I wish to assure you that our government is serious about tackling these issues.”
The Indian economy is projected to grow at 7.5% this year, down from earlier estimates of 9% as a decelerating world economy and faltering domestic demand erode growth across sectors.
“The focus of the discussion was that the government should give a real push to stalled projects that will really lift the broader economy’s growth,” said an industry captain, who did not wish to be identified.
“Investor confidence can come back only when there is perceptible movement in project implementation,” he said.