Trust between govt, business community eroded: Manmohan Singh

Slamming what he termed as the “wrath of coercive agencies” on the business community, former prime minister Manmohan Singh Friday said trust between the government and businesses has eroded and a hostile narrative has been built that will hurt the economy.

Speaking at Hindu Business Line’s award event, Singh without taking any names said there was no room for authoritarian impositions after the country opted for a democratic path for itself.

“Of late, many negative perceptions have been manufactured about business leaders; the business community, big and small, has been made to feel the wrath of coercive agencies,” he said.

“A hostile narrative has been built; this will sap not only the confidence of our own business leaders, it will also create doubts in the mind of foreign governments and business leaders.

“Honest businessman and genuine entrepreneur must never be allowed to feel harassed by the petty revenue officials. Unfortunately, Trust between the government and the business stands eroded,” he said without elaborating.

There is a need to create an intellectual atmosphere that abets industriousness, innovation and imagination among the business community, he said, adding that the society, the government and the business stand to benefit from conditions of trust, lawfulness and fairness.

Singh noted that no change is permanent and the country has remained alive to the need for change and has progressed and prospered whenever society recognised and promoted change.

“Societies grow and progress when creativity is encouraged to challenge the status quo,” he said.

He also said it is vital to prepare all stakeholders for the coming change because produce some disruption, some pain and considerable discomfort.

“It becomes, then, the task of the statesman to take the citizens into confidence and explain to them the need for change. It is never easy to make citizens accept deprivation, even temporary,” he said.

The former prime minister also talked about the economic reforms that he ushered in 1991, saying “our nation faced a difficult choice then”. He, however, noted that even though much had been achieved before 1991 in this land of poverty and deprivation, “but still much more had to be done — and, done differently”.

“We are a young nation but an old society. This old society reflects the strength of our ancient civilization and its traditions.

“Since ancient days we experienced a collective strength and confidence when we remained alive to the need for change; we progressed and prospered whenever we could recognise and promote change, and we moved forward when the society and the administration facilitated the work of the potential change-makers,” he said.

Singh presented award of change maker of the year to the GST Council and the award was received by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.