Wrong, Dr Singh

Updated: May 18 2005, 05:30am hrs
Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs dissatisfaction with his governments performance is not surprising. Almost a year into its five-year term, there is not much to be satisfied about. What is surprising, then, is that a man otherwise known for his modesty should award his government a score of 6/10. Considering that just a few days before, the PMs Office admitted the government has achieved only about 10% of what it set out to do, the PM has been more than generous in awarding marks. Agreed, the 40-odd promises set out in the ruling alliances Common Minimum Pro-gramme are extravagant by any yardstick. Agreed also, that the UPA has completed barely a year in office. And like the first year of marriage, its the first year that is the most trying time for coalition governments, too. Add that coalition politics is relatively new and does not comes easily to the Congress and its main supporter (read bugbear) is the Left, and matters could not be easy. Even so, the PMs most ardent supportersand there are still many of themwill find it hard to accept that the UPAs lacklustre performance deserves a 6/10.

One year after the government took over amidst high expectations, the only area where it can look back with some satisfaction is the economy. There, for the second year in a row, weve seen growth of over 7%. But as an economist himself, Man-mohan Singh knows that in the short run, governments are quite incidental to the GDP growth rate. Its a different matter that he may pretend otherwise. But that is only because it makes political sense to take credit, whether deserved or not, than worry about the niceties of such things.

As far as laying the foundation for future growth, or economic reform, is concerned, the UPAs performance is, at best, mediocre. Limits on foreign direct investment have been raised in civil aviation and telecom (though in the latter it is yet to be notified), but theres no progress on insurance. On pension reform, privatisation, dismantling of the administered pricing mechanism in the oil sector and putting the Employees Provident Fund scheme in order, theres very little to write home about. But its on the non-economic front, on governance in particular, that the UPAs performance falls woefully short. Starting with the governments reluctance to show the door to ministers like Shibu Soren and Lalu Prasad to blatantly partisan politics in Goa and Jhar-khand, the record is not happy at all. No, Dr Singh, you will have to do better to deserve 6/10.