New Delhi: The road ahead is even more daunting than during the 1991 economic crisis and the nation would need to recalibrate its priorities to ensure a dignified life for all Indians, said former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.
In a statement marking the 30th anniversary of economic liberalisation, Singh said he was deeply saddened at the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of millions of fellow Indians and livelihoods.
Recalling that as finance minister in 1991, he ended his budget speech by quoting Victor Hugo, 'No power on Earth can stop an idea whose time has come', and said, "Thirty years later, as a nation, we must remember Robert Frost's poem -- 'But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep'."
"It is not a time to rejoice and exult but to introspect and ponder. The road ahead is even more daunting than during the 1991 crisis," Singh said in the statement.
"Our priorities as a nation need to be recalibrated to foremost ensure a healthy and dignified life for every single Indian."
He said that on this day, 30 years ago in 1991, the Congress party ushered in significant reforms of India's economy and paved a new path for the nation's economic policy.
Over the last three decades, successive governments have followed this path to catapult the nation to a USD 3 trillion economy and into the league of the world's largest economies, the former prime minister noted.
More importantly, he said, nearly 300 million fellow Indians have been lifted out of poverty in this period and hundreds of millions of new jobs have been provided for the youth.
Singh said the reforms process unleashed the spirit of free enterprise which has helped produce world-class companies and help India emerge as a global power in many sectors.
"The economic liberalisation process in 1991 was triggered by an economic crisis that confronted our nation then, but it was not limited to crisis management. The edifice of India's economic reforms was built on the desire to prosper, the belief in our capabilities and the confidence to relinquish control of the economy by the government," he said.
Singh said he was fortunate to play a role in this reform process along with several of his colleagues in the Congress party.
"It gives us immense joy to look back with pride at the tremendous economic progress made by our nation in the last three decades. But I am also deeply saddened at the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of millions of fellow Indians," he said.
The social sectors of health and education have lagged behind and not kept pace with our economic progress. Too many lives and livelihoods have been lost that should not have been, Singh lamented.