NEW DELHI Beleaguered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a rare media roundtable with TV editors on Wednesday as his government grapples with a slew of crises from corruption scandals to high inflation.
Following are highlights of comments by Singh:
ON NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS OF SINGH'S GOVERNMENT
* "Whatever some people may say, that we are a lame duck government, that I am a lame duck prime minister, we take our job very seriously, we are here to govern, and to govern effectively, tackle the problems as they arise and get this country moving forward."
* "An impression has gone round that we are a scam-driven country and nothing good is happening in our country, that we are weakening the self-confidence of the people of India. I do not think that is in the interest of anyone in our country."
* "This sort of atmosphere is not good. It saps our own self-confidence. It also spoils the image of India."
* "I think (corruption scams) do bring out the weaknesses in the processes of governance, or you may call them ethical deficits. I don't deny that we need to improve the quality of governance. That's not a subject that divides me and other members of the cabinet."
ON RUMOURS OF SINGH'S RESIGNATION
* "Things are not entirely the way I would like them to be but quite frankly I never felt like resigning because I have a job to do. The country voted our party to be the leader of the UPA coalition and we have a lot of unfinished business to accomplish and therefore I never thought in terms of giving up halfway and I will stay the course."
ON SINGH'S REFORM AGENDA
* "We have not given up, we will persist. There are difficulties, particularly when parliament is not allowed to function. I think parliament is not able to perform its essential function, being a forum for legislation."
ON INDIA'S INFLATION
* "Oil prices are rising, the food prices are rising, commodity prices are rising. We have to deal with inflation despite an adverse international environment."
* "You have my assurance that we will succeed and at the end of this fiscal year, I think, (the) inflation rate should come down to no more than 7 percent."
ON THE FALL IN FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT FLOWS TO INDIA
* "The mistake was not ours. The international markets were in an uncertain environment and funds were being pulled out of emerging markets. We are today functioning in an environment where what happens outside affects us and therefore it is not easy to say what happens to fund flows is entirely a function of our policy. It is also a function of what our other friends, particularly the developed countries, adopt."
* "But I do agree we need to strengthen our resolve to create a favourable environment for larger flows of funds from abroad."
ON CORRUPTION SCANDALS
* "I wish to assure you and I wish to assure the country as a whole, that our government is dead serious in bringing to book all the wrongdoers, regardless of their position they may occupy."
ON SINGH'S ROLE IN THE TELECOMS LICENCE SCANDAL
* "As far as who gets licences, the first-come-first-served policy, how it is implemented, that was never discussed with me. Licences were not a matter which ever got referred to me or the cabinet. That was a decision exclusively of the telecoms ministry."
ON SINGH'S APPOINTMENT OF FORMER TELECOMS MINISTER ANDIMUTHU RAJA
* "In a coalition government you can suggest your preferences but you have to go by what the leader of that coalition partner ultimately insists. Raja ... was the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) party choice and at that moment I had no reason frankly speaking that anything seriously wrong had been done."
* "I did not feel I had the authority to object to Mr Raja's entry because quite honestly in May 2009, although complaints were coming in, although complaints were coming from all sides, some from companies not benefitting (from the telecoms spectrum allocation) ... I was not in a position to make up my mind that anything seriously was wrong."
ON SINGH'S ROLE IN A SECOND SCANDAL OVER SPECTRUM ALLOCATION BY INDIA'S SPACE AGENCY
* "There has been no effort in the prime minister's office to dilute the decision taken by the space commission."
ON THE STRENGTH OF SINGH'S COALITION
* "Ours is a strong coalition. Our allies are as committed ... to this coalition government as anyone else. There is no danger there might be any inner tensions that may lead to the break up of this coalition. We are a strong government, we are a strong coalition."
ON THE NEXT PARLIAMENT SESSION
* "India as a whole has to march forward. Parliament has not been allowed to function for reasons that I am not able to understand. But we are making an honest effort to ensure that the next session of parliament will be an orderly session.
* "We have important legislation, apart from the budget, to put before parliament. And talks are going on with the opposition parties to ensure that whatever our differences, parliament should be able to function normally."
ON OPPOSITION DEMANDS FOR A PARLIAMENT PROBE
* "I am not afraid of appearing before any committee, including a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee). And this is an entirely wrong impression that I was the one blocking the agreement on a JPC."
(Reporting by Paul de Bendern; compiled by Matthias Williams)
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