Manmohan Singh is the 13th Prime Minister of India since the country’s independence in 1947. He is only the second man to return to this office after serving a complete first term of five years, the first one being Jawaharlal Nehru. He boasts not only the identity of a successful politician, but also a well-respected economist.
Singh was born on 26th September 1932 in Punjab which is now part of Pakistan. He enrolled in Punjab University to obtain the requisite education which set the path for him to join Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. It was here when Singh developed a keen interest in economics, obtaining a First Class Honors degree in the discipline in 1957. This feat was soon followed by admission in Oxford University, where Singh planned to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, an objective he eventually realized in 1962.
After completing his education, Manmohan Singh flew back to India to join the Punjab University, this time in the capacity of a faculty member. This was followed by induction in the United Nations where he worked between the years 1966 and 1969. Singh was an integral part of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development during his tenure at the UN. He left the organization in 1969, reinstating himself as a professor, this time at the Delhi School of Economics where he lectured students on the subject of International Trade.
In 1971, Singh added the title of an economic advisor of the Indian Civil Service to his already remarkable resume. Singh assumed this position after impressing Lalit Narayan Mishra, then Minister of Foreign Trade, with his credentials as an economist. A year after, he was promoted to the position of the Chief Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance and assumed the position of Secretary of the Finance Ministry four years later. Singh also went on to serve as the Governor of the Reserve Bank, deputy Chairman of the Indian Planning Commission, and Secretary General of the South Commission.
Singh entered the realm of Politics in the early 1990’s after joining the Indian parliament. During his time in the upper house he managed to instigate a series of economic modifications to stimulate growth. Singh was against state protection of domestic firms which is why he sought to tone down the practice of protectionism. His reforms eventually increased domestic productivity, moderated inflation and drew in larger influxes of investment from outside the border. This added some much needed life to the Indian economy which faced threats of bankruptcy.
Singh was known to not manifest the typical persona of a politician. His lack of charisma saw him never win a single seat at the Lok Sabha, the lower house in the parliament. However, he was put forward by Sonia Gandhi as a candidate for Prime Ministership due to his reputation as an incorruptible and honest politician. He took charge of the office on 22 May 2004, becoming the first Sikh man to become Indian Prime Minister, symbolizing a historic achievement given the tension and feuds between the Sikhs and the Hindu majority over the years.
Manmohan Singh’s tenure as Prime Minister was categorized by healthy economic growth rates and improving trade relations and political ties with the United States and Pakistan respectively. Measures for alleviating poverty were also successfully implemented. Singh is hailed as the architect behind the liberalization of the Indian economy, and his sanctioning of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right to Information Act by Parliament, and the Indo-US civilian nuclear pact are seen as momentous junctures of his time in office.