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Hugh Young bemoans India’s ‘lame duck’ prime minister

Aberdeen fund manager adds his voice to calls for economic reforms in India, where he says PM Manmohan Singh has been ‘hopeless’.

Hugh Young bemoans India’s ‘lame duck’ prime minister

One of Asia's most celebrated fund managers, Hugh Young, is ‘cautious’ about investing in India in the short term amid a lack of desperately needed economy reforms under the leadership of prime minister Manmohan Singh.

‘Singh has been a complete lame duck prime minister. He’s been hopeless,’ Singapore-based Young said in a call for investors today, adding his voice to the many investors and businesspeople from inside and outside the country who are eager for change and an end to 'policy paralysis'.

In the long term, investments in India remain ‘very viable’ underneath the politics, Young added. Young runs several funds, including Citywire Selection pick Aberdeen Asia Pacific fund , which has 11.9% exposure to Indian companies. 

His comments come after India suffered the biggest downgrade of any emerging country in the International Monetary Fund’s forecasts published yesterday. Investors have been deterred by the lack of reforms under Singh, amid a worsening trade-off between persistent inflation and slowing growth, dragged lower by a particularly sluggish industrial sector.

India’s benchmark BSE Sensex index has made a 10% gain so far this year, but remains down 7% over 12 months after a terrible 2011.

Singh last month took over the finance portfolio from Pranab Mukherjee, who quit as finance minister to run for president in elections on Thursday.

‘There was a bit of hope that him taking on the finance ministry would initiate lots of reforms, but he’s just not the person to challenge the establishment,’ Young said of the move.

‘Politics in India has never been terribly impressive. In many ways it’s the opposite of China in the economic sense of what the government can achieve.’

In all, across Asia Young said it had been a ‘quiet’ second quarter of the year. ‘It is clear from all our company visits and everything we see from a macro point of view that Asia is slowing,’ he said, but added that the fundamentals, including company balance sheets, remain strong. 

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