At the high-profile G-20 conclave of world leaders, one man stood out. He was heard and praised by colleagues and the media.
“Manmohan Singh is king at G-20,” said the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper. The article then put the “king” into perspective: “Singh is the only professional economist among the 20 leaders at the summit.”
Then came a comparison to Mahatma Gandhi. “He is a Gandhian figure, who, like the great Mahatma, is very much of this world but seemingly unsullied by it.”
President Obama wasn’t economical in his praise too: “...At G-20, when he (Singh) speaks, people listen.”
The G-20, set up in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, has been a springboard for Singh’s stature. At last year’s summit, then British secretary Lord Peter Mandelson had said: “He is quiet and understated, which makes him all the more powerful.”
Singh has shown how soft demeanor doesn’t mean submission and a low-key speaking style doesn’t mean lack of substance. This year, Singh argued for more government spending to aid recovery. That is: a thumbs-up to Obama and thumbs-down to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron, who are tightening financial belts.
Ultimately his prescription (in his speech), favoured India. “Growth in developing countries would be helped if… protectionist measures in industrialised countries are firmly resisted.”