Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee fought a war of words on Saturday on the government’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail and increase diesel prices at the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).
Taking a dig at those who are against reform, Singh said: “I am afraid that those who oppose these moves are either ignorant of global realities or are constrained by outdated ideologies.”
Banerjee, whose party pulled out of the ruling coalition to protest the government’s moves, responded to Singh’s criticism saying she was with the common man who was “outdated”.
“What can we do? We are grassroots-level people, we are the representatives of the people. And the common man is always backdated (outdated). I am proud to say we are with the people,” she told reporters here after addressing business leaders at the Ficci meeting.
Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj expressed similar views: “It is not pessimism but an atmosphere of cynicism... More than policy, the right environment is important, but here every day there are scams.”
Singh pledged to announce more reforms to boost investment to reverse the slowdown in the economy and lashed out at critics for “excessive pessimism” at home for hurting growth prospects.
“I stand before you to reassure you that our government is committed to doing everything that is possible to alter the policy environment, accelerate economic growth and make the growth process socially and regionally more inclusive,” Singh said addressing business leaders.
Amid protests against policy paralysis, the UPA government boldly pushed through FDI in the retail sector and aviation and proposed to hike FDI ceiling in insurance from the current 26% to 49% and allow foreign investment in the pension sector.
The Prime Minister also said that there was need to bring in more clarity on tax-related issues including the controversial General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) announced in Union budget 2012.