Home/ Politics / Policy/  BJP, Congress spar over GDP back series data

New Delhi: The Union government on Sunday said that the gross domestic product (GDP) back series data released last week were not official estimates, while the National Statistical Commission (NSC) said the calculations were still a work in progress. The statements come at a time when the Congress is using the data to defend its track record and management of the economy during its 10-year tenure, in contrast with the performance of the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA’s) four years in office.

With the general election due in 2019, the economic performance of the government is likely to come under intense scrutiny and the opposition is likely to take up the issue of “economic mismanagement" by the NDA.

According to the back series calculations by a committee appointed by the NSC, the economy grew in double digits twice—10.23% in 2007-08 and 10.78% in 2010-11—during the tenure of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Further, the average growth rate in the 10 years of UPA rule was at over 8% against the 7.35% witnessed in the four-year tenure of the Narendra Modi government.

“These recommendations of the NSC will be examined by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI) and other experts for deciding on the appropriate methodology to be adopted for generating the back series estimates for each sector," the government said.

“The advisory committee on National Accounts Statistics will be deliberating on the back series estimates before finalising the same for continuity, consistency and reliability," the statement said, adding that the estimates released on Friday are not official.

The NSC in a separate statement said that the methodology for back-casting GDP series has not yet been finalized and various alternative methods were being explored.

“The methodology as also the series using the methodology will be worked out using the suggestions made by the committee on Real Sector Statistics and other suggestions that emanate during the consultancy process. This exercise will first be considered in the advisory committee on National Accounts Statistics and subsequently by the NSC," the statement said, adding: “Thereafter, the MoSPI will consider releasing official estimates on the back series of GDP data. Thus, it is a work in progress."

The Congress, however, was quick to seize the initiative. Former finance minister P. Chidambaram held a press conference on Sunday noon, saying the data established that both terms of the UPA delivered the highest decadal growth (8.13% at factor cost) since India acquired Independence, and that it had handed over an economy on the upswing in 2014.

“You will recall that the Congress had repeatedly pointed out that, when the base year was changed, the government should follow the healthy international practice and revise the numbers for the previous years," Chidambaram told reporters, adding that there was a “determined effort to run down" the UPA’s 10-year track record.

“The back series data is now available. The numbers prove the dictum that truth cannot be suppressed forever and truth has a way of emerging amid a torrent of lies and distortions," he added.

The calculations have been made by a sub-committee headed by N.R. Bhanumurthy, professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), within the committee on real sector statistics headed by Sudipto Mundle, emeritus professor at the institute.

The estimates of GDP and other related aggregates for the period between 1993-94 and 2013-14 have been calculated by the committee using a so-called production shift method.

From 1994-95 to 2002-03, GDP growth under the new series has been calculated to be lower than estimated under the old series, while between 2003-04 and 2011-12, the economy seems to have grown faster than earlier estimated.

“Congress is a passionate advocate of high growth with equity and social justice. All three have suffered under the government of Shri Narendra Modi. For the sake of the country, we wish the government well in its fifth year. We know it cannot match the average growth rate of UPA 1, but we hope it can catch up with the average growth rate of UPA 2," Chidambaram added.

Meanwhile, Union minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday wrote on Twitter, “The UPA govt. compromised on all macro fundamentals. It compromised on the fiscal deficit and the Current Account Deficit, it allowed inflation to spiral out of control and more so to create an illusory growth, it compromised India’s banking system through reckless lending."

“It is clear that the growth during UPA-1 was during the period of global boom. It inherited an 8% plus growing economy from the NDA government. The global tailwinds supported India. Emerging markets were all growing at a higher rates," Jaitley said, adding that the 10 years of UPA were a lost opportunity as no significant reforms were carried out.

The earlier series was calculated based on a base year of 2004-05 and the new series is on the base year of 2011-12.

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Updated: 20 Aug 2018, 08:39 AM IST
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