Our Bureau

New Delhi, Dec. 8

THE Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today emphasised that ensuring sustained development within a democratic framework was not an easy task as development entails inter-generational trade-offs and choices that political parties cannot easily make given electoral compulsions.

Speaking at the conference of `Democracy, Development and Social Inclusion' organised by Jagran Forum, an initiative taken by a Hindi daily Danik Jagran, the Prime Minister called upon the developing countries to evolve political and social consensus on the desired pattern of development and not blindly imitate the developed world.

While guaranteeing free play of enterprise and creativity and not interfering in the process of wealth creation, the Government must improve distributional outcomes. "This requires broad-based political as well as social consensus," he said.

Such consensus is vital, be it on agrarian policy, fiscal policy, investment policy, labour or even environment policy, Dr Singh said. "Development entails inter-generational and inter-class distributional issues that have to be taken sometimes, which may go against the popular and populist mood. In particular, there must be a general acceptance of the proposition that money does not grow on trees, and a nation cannot spend its way to prosperity. The standard of living of a nation is, in the final analysis, a matter of higher efficiency and higher productivity, and there are no short cuts to it," he added.

The Prime Minister said that goal of the development process must be to include every last member of the society, particularly those who are at the margins. "This not only broadens the support base for development, it also strengthens the Government's ability to perform its core developmental role. If, therefore, the beneficiaries of development see their role in this light, Government can raise the required resources to make development more inclusive. I do not suggest that Government needs to interfere in the processes of wealth creation, on the contrary. But in a developing democracy, Government cannot invest in the future of our people unless it raises the necessary resources to finance that commitment," Dr Singh stated.

He also urged professionals from all sections of the society to take an active interest in democratic politics. The Prime Minister underlined the `need for more professionals in our legislatures, who recognise the danger of dividing our people on the basis of religion or caste'. "If politics is based on the exploitation of religious and caste differences, the end result can be a low-level equilibrium, characterised by social strife and an uncertain environment for the growth of enterprise', he added.

The Prime Minister urged the media to remain vigilant to empower the people so that our democratic institutions could be constantly reviewed.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 9, 2005)
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