Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday sought to dispel apprehensions of the Indian diaspora on the state of the economy, saying the country was heading towards "better times" and there is no reason to despair about its present or worry about the future.
He also said that regardless of the outcome of the next elections, they will once again demonstrate the strength of India's democracy and its institutions.
"I know that many of you have questions about the future of the Indian economy and concerns about social challenges, the shape of our polity and the issues of governance in our country. There is a perception in some quarters outside India that the country is losing its momentum of the past decade," he said.
Singh said the issue is also amplified by the "political contestations in India, which are inevitably louder in the election season" that is now on the horizon.
"I wish to assure you that there is no reason to despair about our present or worry about our future. Indeed, as I have said earlier, we are heading into better times ahead and I would urge you to remain engaged in the future of this country with confidence and optimism," the Prime Minister said at the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here.
He said despite a number of external and domestic factors, "our economic fundamentals are strong." "Our economy has done well over the past decade. In the nine years since 2004, we averaged a healthy growth rate of 7.9 % per annum. There has been no doubt a slow down in the recent past, and we will probably end this year at the same level as last year with 5 % growth," he said.
Singh pointed out that a number of international as well as domestic factors have contributed to this situation.
"Despite these challenges, our economic fundamentals remain strong. Our savings and investment rates are still over 30 % of our GDP and the entrepreneurial spirit in India is very much alive and kicking," Singh said.
Referring to UPA government's efforts to bring more transparency and accountability in governance, Singh said the task is complicated because there is a need to overhaul entrenched practices and systems while respecting the federal nature of Indian polity.
"Strengthening governance is an ongoing process and we can never say that we have done enough, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction," he said.
He said the Right to Information, the Lokpal legislation, the Government Procurement Bill, changes in the systems for the allocation of natural resources and empowering our law enforcement and audit agencies are some of the steps the government has taken in that direction.
To bolster his argument that the present and the future of the country's economy and polity remain sturdy, Singh said regardless of the outcome of the next elections, they will once again demonstrate to the world the strength of India's democracy and its institutions.
He said the general elections due this summer will also prove the enduring nature of these ideals that constitute the bedrock for India's progress and its quest for a life of opportunity, justice and equity for all citizens.
Singh said recent developments point to the greater enrichment of the country's democracy, which is becoming more participative and interactive, with people using both traditional methods and new digital tools to mobilise and communicate.
"It is especially encouraging to see our youth from all walks of life not only articulate their expectations and aspirations, but take actively to politics to shape their future. This is only to be welcomed.
"It is only thus that the extraordinary transformation that is taking place in our country on multiple levels can be distilled constructively into our democratic process, which has the vitality and responsiveness to reflect the new and emerging concerns and hopes and aspirations of our people. I am confident and so should you be that the future of our country as a pluralistic democracy is safe and secure," he said.