We must overcome constraints, PM tells ministers

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told his newly reconstituted council of ministers to pull up their socks, saying that constraints, particularly in improvement of infrastructure, would have to be overcome.

Convening a meeting of all ministers following last Sunday's major shake-up, the pime mnister partly blamed the difficult global economic conditions for the country's economic slowdown and high fiscal deficit, which he said were acting as a deterrent for domestic and foreign investments.

Fuel supply arrangements, security and environmental clearances and financing difficulties were among the "constraints" in achieving a 12th Plan infrastructure investment target, he said. 

Singh said in his opening remarks, "My own view is that while we need not be unduly gloomy about our prospects, we certainly need to redouble our resolve to meet the challenges before us and rise to the task of governance."

He pointed to fuel supply arrangements, security and environmental clearances and financing difficulties as being among the "constraints" in achieving the 12th Plan infrastructure investment targets.
 
He recalled the achievements of UPA government in the last nine years in social and economic policy making, including flagship schemes like MNREGA and Aadhar scheme for unique identification numbers for citizens. He said robust economic growth had helped enhanced social sector spending.
 
"While we should take justifiable pride in our successes, it is important to recognise that we are now also experiencing the fallout of difficult economic conditions worldwide. As a result, our growth has decelerated, our exports have fallen and our fiscal deficits are expanding. Of particular concern is the fiscal deficit, which is too high and acts as a deterrent for domestic and foreign investment," he said.

The prme mnister said these issues have a ripple effect across the economy and on the work of many departments that are represented in New Delhi.

"One area that is at the top of our agenda and will require particular attention and effort at multiple levels across government is infrastructure. During the Twelfth Plan, we have set ourselves a target of realisng nearly $1 trillion of investment in infrastructure sectors. To do so, we will have to overcome the constraints that currently deter or slow down this investment,'' he said.
 
He further said that the growing gap between demand and supply of energy has emerged as a major constraint on India's development, causing a widening in the deficit on the current account of India's balance of payments as well as the fiscal deficit.
 
"It is imperative that we come to a common understanding on these issues and work out mechanisms and remedial measures that will enable us to tackle these critical deficiencies on a priority basis," he said.
 
Hinting at the political constraints restricting government initiatives, he said, "I am aware that we are working against the political calendar, but we should not lose sight of the fact that we are also involved in the task of nation-building. Our responsibilities and our commitment therefore need to transcend other considerations."

Asking senior colleagues to delegate work to junior ministers, Singh said a number of "energetic and younger" people have now joined the council of ministers. "I would also request my senior cabinet colleagues to make full use of the capacities and capabilities of their ministers of state by assigning them substantive tasks," he said.
 
Several junior ministers have been on the verge of rebelling in the recent past as the senior cabinet ministers were taking all the decisions unilaterally and leaving precious little for them to do.