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PM strikes back at industry critics

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has struck back at critics who accuse him of weakening the country's economy by failing to pursue bold economic reforms.

delhi Updated: Dec 23, 2011 17:12 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has struck back at critics who accuse him of weakening the country's economy by failing to pursue bold economic reforms.

Singh's Congress Party-led government has been the target of mounting attacks from business leaders upset over its inability to push through its much-vaunted reform and a string of multi-billion-dollar corruption scandals.

It was "disappointing to sometimes hear negative comments emanating from our business leadership or be told government policies are causing slowdown and pessimism," Singh said in a speech late on Thursday posted on his website.

"Such comments have added to (economic) uncertainty," said the 79-year-old leader whose personal reputation has taken a beating with critics describing him as the dithering captain of a rudderless administration.

"Our government is committed to creating a growth-oriented economic environment," he told the Council on Trade and Industry, an advisory body that includes corporate luminaries such as Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani.

Businesses have slammed the government's retreat this month on plans to open up the $470 billion retail sector to foreign competition, saying the move was symptomatic of policy drift and inaction.

Singh, known as India's economic liberator for easing the government's grip on the economy in 1991, argued that India's political realities required patience.

"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," he said.

"This may sometimes take longer than what we would like."

Since its re-election victory in 2009, the government has taken no major liberalisation initiatives.

Business leaders have expressed alarm about the slowing economy, which grew an annual 6.9% in the most recent quarter, the weakest pace in more than two years.

Some have suggested the slowdown is due partly to investment uncertainty over the government's policies.