Manmohan Singh, (born September 26, 1932, Gah, West Punjab, India [now in Pakistan]), Indian economist and politician, who served as prime minister of India from 2004 to 2014. A Sikh, he was the first non-Hindu to occupy the office.
Singh attended Panjab University in Chandigarh and the University of Cambridge in Great Britain. He later earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Oxford. In the 1970s he was named to a series of economic advisory posts with the Indian government and became a frequent consultant to prime ministers. Singh also worked at the Reserve Bank of India, serving as director (1976–80) and governor (1982–85). When he was named finance minister in 1991, the country was on the verge of an economic collapse. Singh devalued the rupee, lowered taxes, privatized state-run industries, and encouraged foreign investment, reforms that helped transform the country’s economy and spark an economic boom. A member of the Indian National Congress, he joined the Rajya Sabha (upper chamber of Parliament) in 1991. Singh, who served as finance minister until 1996, ran for the Lok Sabha (lower chamber) in 1999 but was defeated.
Congress won the May 2004 parliamentary elections, defeating the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Congress’s leader, Sonia Gandhi (widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi), declined the prime ministership, instead recommending Singh for the post. Singh subsequently formed a government and took office. His stated goals included helping improve conditions for India’s poor (who generally had not benefited from the country’s economic growth), securing peace with neighbouring Pakistan, and improving relations between India’s various religious groups.
Singh presided over a rapidly expanding economy, but rising fuel costs precipitated a marked increase in inflation that threatened the government’s ability to provide subsidies for the country’s poor. In an effort to meet India’s growing energy demands, Singh in 2005 entered into negotiations with U.S. President George W. Bush for a nuclear cooperation pact. The deal called for India to receive fuel technology for nuclear plants and be given the ability to purchase nuclear fuel on the world market. Abroad, the prospective cooperation agreement was resisted by those who were upset over India’s refusal to sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; in India, Singh was criticized for fostering too close a relationship with the United States, which, his critics believed, would use the deal to leverage power in the Indian government. By 2008 progress on the deal prompted members of the government’s Parliamentary majority—communist parties in particular—to denounce Singh’s government and ultimately push for a confidence vote in Parliament in late July 2008. Singh’s government narrowly survived the vote, but the process was marred by allegations—on both sides—of corruption and the purchasing of votes.
In the parliamentary elections of May 2009, Congress increased its number of seats in the legislature, and Singh took office as prime minister for a second time. A slowing of India’s economic growth and further allegations of corruption against Congress Party officials hampered governance during Singh’s second term, however, and led to a deterioration of the party’s popularity with the voting population. In early 2014 Singh announced that he would not seek a third term as prime minister in the elections to the Lok Sabha that spring. He left office on May 26, the same day that Narendra Modi of the BJP was sworn in as prime minister.
India’s fourteenth Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh is rightly acclaimed as a thinker and a scholar. He is well regarded for his diligence and his academic approach to work, as well as his accessibility and his unassuming demeanour.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was born on September 26, 1932, in a village in the Punjab province of undivided India. Dr. Singh completed his Matriculation examinations from the Punjab University in 1948. His academic career took him from Punjab to the University of Cambridge, UK, where he earned a First Class Honours degree in Economics in 1957. Dr. Singh followed this with a D. Phil in Economics from Nuffield College at Oxford University in 1962. His book, “India’s Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth” [Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1964] was an early critique of India’s inward-oriented trade policy.
Dr. Singh’s academic credentials were burnished by the years he spent on the faculty of Punjab University and the prestigious Delhi School of Economics. He had a brief stint at the UNCTAD Secretariat as well, during these years. This presaged a subsequent appointment as Secretary General of the South Commission in Geneva between 1987 and 1990.
In 1971, Dr. Singh joined the Government of India as Economic Advisor in the Commerce Ministry. This was soon followed by his appointment as Chief Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance in 1972. Among the many Governmental positions that Dr. Singh has occupied are Secretary in the Ministry of Finance; Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission; Governor of the Reserve Bank of India; Advisor of the Prime Minister; and Chairman of the University Grants Commission.
In what was to become the turning point in the economic history of independent India, Dr. Singh spent five years between 1991 and 1996 as India’s Finance Minister. His role in ushering in a comprehensive policy of economic reforms is now recognized worldwide. In the popular view of those years in India, that period is inextricably associated with the persona of Dr. Singh.
Among the many awards and honours conferred upon Dr. Singh in his public career, the most prominent are India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan (1987); the Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award of the Indian Science Congress (1995); the Asia Money Award for Finance Minister of the Year (1993 and 1994); the Euro Money Award for Finance Minister of the Year (1993), the Adam Smith Prize of the University of Cambridge (1956); and the Wright’s Prize for Distinguished Performance at St. John’s College in Cambridge (1955). Dr. Singh has also been honoured by a number of other associations including the Japanese Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Dr. Singh is a recipient of honorary degrees from many universities including the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.
Dr. Singh has represented India at many international conferences and in several international organizations. He has led Indian Delegations to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Cyprus (1993) and to the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993.
In his political career, Dr. Singh has been a Member of India’s Upper House of Parliament (the Rajya Sabha) since 1991, where he was Leader of the Opposition between 1998 and 2004. Dr. Manmohan Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister on 22nd May after the 2004 general elections and took the oath of office for a second term on 22nd May 2009.
Dr. Singh and his wife Mrs. Gursharan Kaur have three daughters.