Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he didn't see the economy reaching the 5 trillion dollar target by 2024, as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with growth declining year after year. He also said the economy is in a "vicious slowdown" which can be salvaged only if the growth rate shoots up.
"Economy is in a vicious slowdown now. With the way it is going, right now what is feasible is 5.5 to 6 per cent in the short term. But our economy needs a growth rate of 8 to 10 per cent for employment generation," Manmohan Singh said in Mumbai.
He referred to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting that India's growth rate during the current fiscal year would be only 6.1% as against 7.3% mentioned some months ago. "With growth rate declining year after year, I don't think there's any hope of economy reaching the target of $5 Trillion by 2024," Dr Singh said.
The former Prime Minister was addressing the media ahead of Monday's voting in Maharashtra for assembly polls.
He also responded to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's caustic assessment in the US that the banking sector had passed through its worst phase during under the Manmohan Singh-Raghuram Rajan combination.
"I have just seen the statements by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. I won't like to comment on that statement, but before one can fix the economy, one needs a correct diagnosis of its ailments and their causes. The government is obsessed with trying to fix blame on its opponent, thus it is unable to find a solution that will ensure revival of economy," said the former PM.
"When I was in office, what happened did happen. There were some weaknesses. But you can't claim that the fault lies with the UPA always. You have been in office for five years. Mainly passing buck to UPA is not enough," said Dr Singh, who was Prime Minister of India from 2004 to 2014.
His words were countered sharply by the government. "We will definitely reach the 5-trillion dollar target, it is possible. We believe the in 2020-21, the growth will be 8 to 8.5 per cent," NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar told NDTV.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal said: "Dr Manmohan Singh should reflect on his own failures, where he went wrong, why he couldn't maintain a strong economy and give an honest government, why he was so helpless that he had to obey orders from 10 Janpath (Sonia Gandhi's residence) and had no capacity to take his own decisions."
Dr Singh also said in his press meet that Mumbai and Maharashtra had suffered some of the worst effects of what he called a grave economic slowdown. Maharashtra today was a leader in farmer suicides, according to him, and every third person was jobless.
"Unfortunately, the BJP governments at the Centre as well as Maharashtra are unwilling to implement people-friendly measures.... The government seems to be busy only trying to fix or plug the gaps, not make holistic changes," said the former PM.
Asked what measures should be taken to arrest the slowdown, he replied: "What should be done to fix the economic crisis will take a long time, but the immediate measure would be to vote in the Congress-NCP to power."
For a short-term measure, he added, "we need a strong leadership in Delhi."