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PMs New Year wish: An effective Lokpal
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

PMs Promises

n Vows to personally work to provide an honest and more efficient govt
n Lists several transformational initiatives taken to tackle corruption
n Terms 2011 a very difficult year for the world due to economic crisis, socio-economic tensions and political upheavals

New Delhi, December 31
Having been under constant fire on the twin issues of corruption and governance, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sought to set the record straight on both fronts with a special New Year message to the nation in which he delineated the UPA government's future roadmap and reiterated his personal resolve to "provide an honest and more efficient government."

Seeking to put behind a "very difficult year", the Prime Minister admitted that the Indian economy had slowed down, inflation had edged up and corruption had moved to the centre stage but did not feel the need to feel downcast at these events.

While pointing out that corruption is a serious problem, he said it calls for a multi-dimensional response and the establishment of new institutions like the Lokpal and Lokayuktas are a part of the solution. He said it was unfortunate that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill could not be passed by the Rajya Sabha but reiterated that his government is committed to a strong and effective anti-graft law. He said the government had also initiated several other measures like the Citizen's Charter and a Bill on Judicial Accountablity as part of its ongoing effort to increase transparency and minimise discretion.

The Prime Minister's eight-page message is part of a media blitzkrieg launched by the UPA government to counter the Opposition's campaign against it on the Lokpal Bill fiasco in the Rajya Sabha. The ruling coaltion's media managers moved in swiftly yesterday itself as the Opposition is all set to up the ante with an eye on the coming Assembly polls.

While a number of senior Congress ministers are being fielded to take on the BJP and defend the government, the PM's message is primarily meant to dispel the widespread notion that the UPA government is in the grip of a "policy paralysis" and that the PM suffers from leadership deficit.

Consequently, the PM's "take charge" message spoke of the government's achievements and the tasks ahead. ahead. Stating that he did not wish to dwell on the year gone by, the PM said he would rather focus on the five key challenges facing he country, which he identified as livelihood security, economic security, energy security, ecological security and national security.

In a clear message to key ally Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who recently vetoed the Centre's policy on FDI in retail trade and its Pension Bill, the PM admitted that some of the economic reforms attract controversy and cause nervousness. However, he urged people to learn from their past experience with liberalisation and recalled there was a similar controversy 20 years ago when economic reforms were first introduced. "We should remember that change is necessary for development," the PM said, adding that " we should not lock ourselves into a blind refusal to contemplate change."

Speaking of the country's economic situation, the PM said though there was reason to be satisfied with the performance, the country faces many challenges if it is to maintain this growth in the years ahead.

Expressing concern over the country's fiscal deficit which, the PM said, has worsened over the past three years, the PM made a strong pitch for the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax which, he said, would modernise the indirect tax system, increase economic efficiency and increase total revenues.

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