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Singh presses ahead on retail sector reforms

September 21, 2012

NEW DELHI, Sept 21: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh slammed the opposition and exuded confidence on Friday that his decision to increase petroleum prices and invitation to foreign investments in the retail sector, a political hot potato, would help reverse widespread economic slowdown.

“You should know that even after the price increase, the prices of diesel and LPG in India are lower than those in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan,” Dr Singh informed the nation in a rare TV address. He was speaking after six ministers from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress resigned from the cabinet in protest at the prime minister’s decisions.

Dr Singh’s government announced a blitz of economic measures last week, including allowing foreign groups to invest in the retail and aviation sectors and hiking diesel prices by 12 per cent. Trinamool, which has frequently opposed policy changes since elections in 2009, held the railways portfolio in the cabinet and has five junior ministers in other positions in the central government.

“The challenge is that we have to do this at a time when the world economy is experiencing great difficulty. The United States and Europe are struggling to deal with an economic slowdown and financial crisis. Even China is slowing down,” the prime minister said.

India too had been affected, “though I believe we have been able to limit the effect of the global crisis”, he said.