Politicians must have some theoretical construct, says PM

By Minu Jain, IANS,

Putrajaya : Politicians who seek to influence the “course of economic policy and history” must have some theoretical construct at the back of their minds, India’s technocrat-academic Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a gathering in this Malaysian administrative capital Wednesday.

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Manmohan Singh, who is here on a three-day bilateral visit and held extensive talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, was answering questions after delivering the Khazanah Global Lecture here.

The luncheon meeting, attended by the business elite of Malaysia and India as well as university students, was followed by a question from a student who asked the Cambridge-educated economist-politician whether he was ruled by theoretical reasoning or gut feeling.

“I have no definitive answers but I do know Lord Keynes said most practical politicians are slave to some defunct economics,” Manmohan Singh said, evoking laughter in the room.

Politicians must have some “theoretical perspective” at the back of their minds, he said, adding that there was a “plethora of information” available these days.

You must know “how to organise facts into a model to arrive at a solution”, said Manmohan Singh, often under attack for being too much of an academic and less of a politician.

“Everybody who is in politics, who seeks to influence the course of economic policy and history has some notion of what is workable… Whether that is good or bad is judged by history,” the usually phlegmatic prime minister said.

“Practical men and women are driven to rely on some theoretical construct,” he added, giving a rare insight into the working of his mind – and perhaps sending a message to his detractors back home.

(Minu Jain can be contacted at [email protected]