Manmohan Singh changed the way India did business
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Manmohan Singh changed the way India did business

Wednesday, 19 May 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Manmohan Singh, the British-educated economist set to become the 13th prime minister of India, is better known as the man who kick-started difficult economic reforms that helped integrate the country with the global economy.

As finance minister in P.V. Narasimha Rao's cabinet between 1991 and 1996, he not only put India on the map of the world's attractive investment destinations but also brought about a fundamental change in the way India Inc. conducted its business.

"He took path-breaking decisions at a time when our economy was in a terrible state," said N. Srinivasan, director general- designate of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"He is a man of great humility and total integrity who understands the economy extremely well," Srinivasan told IANS.

But Rao was not the first prime minister who saw potential in this soft-spoken economist. In 1990, he was handpicked by then prime minister Chandra Shekhar as his economic advisor, thereby bringing him into the public eye for the first time.

The other high points of his long career were governor of the Reserve Bank of India, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and secretary general and commissioner of the South Commission in Geneva.

It is to his credit that he has never been embroiled in a controversy and has an impeccably clean image.

"He has no vested interests. He is very open-minded and willing to listen and likes to build consensus," said B.B. Bhattacharya, director of the Delhi-based Institute of Economic Growth.

"He would be the best consensus prime minister," Bhattacharya told IANS.

Born to Gurmukh Singh and Amrit Kaur on Sep 26, 1932, at Gah in West Punjab, now a part of Pakistan, Manmohan Singh studied economics at the University of Punjab, Oxford and Cambridge.

Armed with a doctorate in economics, he began his career as a lecturer at the University of Punjab in 1957 and shifted to the Delhi School of Economics (D-School) in 1969.

After three years in D-School, where he taught international trade, he became a civil servant -- first as an economic advisor in the ministry of foreign trade and then as chief economic advisor in the finance ministry.

Between 1976 and 1980, he was also India's finance secretary, following which he was appointed member-secretary in the Planning Commission.

From 1982 to 1985, he was governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and from 1985 to 1987 he was deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, which has traditionally been a position reserved for a politician with economic leanings.

Between 1987 and 1991, he also served in various capacities at the South Commission, the Prime Minister's Office and the University Grants Commission.

Having occupied virtually all key positions in India's economic administration, with added international perspective thanks to his stints at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and South-South Commission, it was time for Manmohan Singh to transform himself into a politician.

In 1991, when he joined the Narasimha Rao cabinet, it was a turbulent time for the Indian economy with foreign exchange coffers barely enough for two weeks' imports.

He nursed the economy and initiated policies that changed the basic aspirations of corporate India to become a global player and integrate with the world economy.

"I stood behind him like a rock," Narasimha Rao said in a recent interview. "I encouraged him when I found him diffident. I gave him political support through thick and thin."

Manmohan Singh was also one finance minister who made the union budget a much-watched exercise and used it for policy pronouncements with far-reaching implications, peppering it with interesting Urdu couplets.

In 1994, when he presented what is described as his best fiscal budget, he quoted Victor Hugo in his speech and said: "No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come."

He was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in October 1991 and represents Assam in the upper house of Parliament.

The author of a book titled 'India's Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth', which was published by Clarendon Press, Oxford University, in 1964, he also has numerous articles to his credit.

He is married to Gursharan Kaur and has three daughters.




Source: IANS
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