Govt determined to turn setbacks into opportunity: PM

Kochi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the government was determined to turn any setback into an opportunity to improve legal and regulatory frameworks in the context of a "surge of expectation" from an increasingly empowered and articulate public.

"There is now a surge of expectation from an increasingly empowered and articulate public, for more responsive, transparent, participative, clean and efficient governance," Singh said, inaugurating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here, attended by the Indian diaspora.

His remarks apparently come against the backdrop of the nationwide outcry and outrage over various issues, including corruption and the recent Delhi gangrape incident.

Singh said the government was "determined to turn any setback into an opportunity to improve legal and regulatory frameworks."

"I have no doubt that the energy and the passions of our citizens, particularly our youth, will be a force of positive change in our country," he told the gathering where the Mauritius President Rajkeshwur Purryag was the chief guest.

Singh told the Indian diaspora that despite an impressive economic performance and change on an enormous scale in the past two decades, the country faced persisting challenges of poverty, equity, sustainability and opportunity.

"Vulnerable sections of society, including our women, face enduring prejudices and continuing problems in a rapidly changing India," he said.

Noting that the world economy has had to deal with the two major financial crises emanating from the developed world in the last four years, Singh said the Indian economy has not been immune to the consequences.

"From an impressive average annual GDP growth rate of over eight per cent between 2004-2010, our growth declined to 6.5 per cent in 2011-12 and may fall below six per cent in the current year," he said.

The Prime Minister said despite domestic constraints and challenges, the government was confident that the country's strong economic fundamentals backed by sound policies, would enable it to return to a higher growth path.

He said government had recently taken a number of steps to boost domestic and foreign investment, accelerate project implementation and reform capital markets and the tax system.

Referring to the 12th five year plan, approved recently, with an "ambition" to sustain eight per cent annual economic growth, Singh said this required enormous resources, reforms in policies and institutions and new models of public-private partnerships, among others.

"New approaches will be needed to address challenges like infrastructure, education, energy, water and agriculture."

Lauding the role of the Indian expatriates, who had become more vulnerable to economic crises, conflicts, civil unrest or "senseless hate crimes", Singh said at a time of turbulence in many parts of the world, safety and security of Indian overseas communities was uppermost in "our minds."

Though the primary responsibility of safety and security of overseas Indian communities rest with the host countries, "when needed, as was the case, last year in Libya, our government will provide prompt and necessary assistance, the Prime Minister said.

He said the government will do "all that is possible" to deepen the connection of Indians overseas with India and advance their interests while inviting them to be a vital partner and participant in India's social and economic development.

The Mauritius President recalled the strong cultural bond between his country and India. "The destiny of India and the destiny of diaspora are in many ways intertwined," he said.

An annual event being held since January 2003, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention is the flagship event of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs to connect India to its vast Indian diaspora and bringing their knowledge, expertise and skills on a common platform.