Indian PM pledges to push for financial reform

LONDON, Oct 9, 2006 (AFP) – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to push for reform of the banking and insurance sectors, and to raise investment in infrastructure, in an interview published in the Financial Times on Monday. “These are our two biggest priorities,” Singh told the newspaper.

His remarks to the newspaper largely echo those he made last week in Mumbai at the opening of new corporate headquarters of market regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

“We cannot achieve our social and economic objectives unless there is reform of the insurance and banking system. Infrastructure requires long-term investment and our banking system is essentially short-term oriented,” he told the Financial Times.

Singh, credited with masterminding India’s economic liberalisation process in 1991, added that protests from left-wing parties in the country have not deterred him from pursuing reform.

“Politics is the art of the possible and I have to live with the situation I inherited … There have been difficulties (with left-wing parties), but I have not given up hope. We have not completed half the term.”

He also defended the creation of special economic zones, which have also been attacked by left-wing