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Let us think big, says Manmohan

Special Correspondent

`Apprehensions over economic reforms overstated'


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    NEW DELHI: In an apparent bid to pave the way for the next round of reforms, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday exhorted the Indian polity and the people at large to shun the habit of being excessively "apprehensive." Instead they should "think big" to grab the new market opportunities and "unleash their creative potential".

    Inaugurating the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) in Lucknow, Dr. Singh argued that the apprehensions about reforms — as is being witnessed over the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector, and even over the opening up of the insurance sector earlier — were "overstated" and merely reflected the lack of self-confidence.

    Excessive anxiety

    "Many of our apprehensions about liberalisation are often overstated... There is excessive anxiety with change. We often lack the self-confidence required to deal with new opportunities," Dr. Singh said. Citing the retail sector, where apprehensions are being expressed over opening it up to FDI, he said: "I am reminded about the kind of apprehensions that were expressed when we first proposed foreign investment in insurance."

    The apprehensions were unfounded as LIC, Dr. Singh said, proved all doubters wrong and surged ahead to create new records in a more competitive market after the sector was opened up to FDI.

    Preparing the nation to take on the challenge of the next round of reforms, the Prime Minister went on to say: "We worry far too much about the risks and do not grasp adequately, [the] power of our own capabilities... I urge all Indians to think big. I urge them to unleash their creative potential...We can take on [the] competition and make good use of new opportunities at home and abroad."

    Cusp of historic change

    Utilising the opportunity to present a report card on the economy while expressing his concerns over certain issues that may impede progress, Dr. Singh said "India was at the cusp of a historic change."

    It could enter into a sustained phase of 7-8 per cent growth, in a break from trends of the recent past. With the services sector being a key driver and manufacturing showing tremendous dynamism, the economy, he said, had already demonstrated the capability to move on to a higher growth path.

    With the Government's focus now on agriculture and irrigation, Dr. Singh hoped that the primary sectors too, would witness faster growth. A major constraint, however, was the country's infrastructure which required huge investments in roads, railways, ports, power, civil aviation and telecom so as to ensure that the growth process was not throttled, he said.

    Special LIC bonus

    Speaking at the function, the Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, announced that the LIC would give a special bonus to its policyholders to mark the completion of 50 years of service. Those who possess a valid LIC policy as on March 31 this year would be eligible for the bonus, he said.

    Earlier, the Prime Minister launched the `Bima Gold' scheme and gave away the bonds to five policyholders.

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