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Manmohan left nasty stink of corruption in PSBs: FM

Manmohan left nasty stink of corruption in PSBs: FM
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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has accused former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of leaving behind ‘a nasty stink of corruption’ in the public...

New York: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has accused former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of leaving behind 'a nasty stink of corruption' in the public banking sector, which suffered its 'worst phase' under him and former Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan.

During Rajan's tenure, "loans were given just based on phone calls from crony leaders and public sector banks in India till today are depending on government equity infusion to get out of that mire," she said on Tuesday during a lecture at Columbia University.

Sitharaman said: "Indian public sector banks did not have a worst phase than when there was the combination of Dr Manmohan Singh and Dr Raghuram Rajan, as the Prime Minister and the Governor of the Reserve Bank."

She was responding to an audience members question about Rajan's reported criticism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is "extremely centralised" and does not have a "consistent and articulated vision" for economic growth.

Lashing out at Rajan, Sitharaman said, "Rather too democratic leadership, which probably will have the approval quite a lot of liberals, I am afraid left behind such a nasty stink of corruption which we are cleaning up even today."

"So, if there is a feeling that there has been a centralised leadership now, I like to say that a very democratised leadership led to a whole lot of corruption," she said. She added, "You need to have a country as diverse as India with an effective leadership".

Her lecture was hosted by the Columbia University's Deepak and Neera Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies. With eminent Columbia University economists, Jagdish Bhagwati and former NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Aravind Panagaria, in the audience, Sitharaman asked, "Can all of us put together also think of asking what ails our banks today? Where has it been inherited from?" She said she wanted "answers for the time when Dr Raghuram Rajan was here in the Governor's post".

She said, "The Indian banks, for which today to give a lifeline, is the primary duty of the finance minister of India. And the lifeline kind of an emergency is not come overnight." Rajan is now a distinguished professor of finance at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Sitharaman said to laughter from the audience, "I am sure Dr Raghuram Rajan will agree that Dr Manmohan Singh would have had a consistent articulated vision for India."

Expressing concern over the Indian economy's slowdown, Rajan had reportedly said that the "sequence of demonetisation and GST (Goods and Services Tax) was essentially the straw that seems to have broken the Indian economy's back because it came at a point when the Indian economy was relatively weak,"

Sitharaman dismissed criticism by Economics Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee on Monday that the government should be focused on boosting demand rather than on monetary stability.

She said that this was precisely what the government was doing by making credit available through the banks and other institutions and through a massive investment in government infrastructure projects.

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