Govt seeks definition for infrastructure from statistics panel

Govt seeks definition for infrastructure from statistics panel

New Delhi: The proposal to create two infrastructure indices moved a step forward with the government approaching the National Statistical Commission, or NSC, the apex statistical authority, to provide a standard definition for infrastructure.

An infra index would be key to identifying infrastructure scarcities in the economy.

“We already have some discussions on the matter. It has been agreed to keep the social infrastructure out of the purview (for the time being)," said Pronab Sen, chief statistician of India and secretary of the ministry of statistics and programme implementation.

The two infrastructure indices proposed to be constructed are the Index of Infrastructure Growth and the Index of Infrastructure Utilization. While the first index will provide an insight into the gap and actual requirement of infrastructure in the country, the second will monitor whether existing infrastructure is being utilized optimally. Though the periodicity with which the indices will be published is yet to be decided, they are expected to be quarterly indices in line with national income data.

Currently, there is no official infrastructure index published in the country. The core sector data, published every month by the department of industrial policy and promotion as a part of the Index of Industrial Production, has limited use when it comes to infrastructure.

Though a significant part of the infrastructure statistics is available with various ministries, the data is published in a dispersed manner in various official documents.

“We are also compiling infrastructure statistics to publish an annual infrastructure statistics document, which will be a ready reckoner for users of the data," said an official of the Central Statistical Organization who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Economists welcome the move.

“We need to have an infrastructure index to understand its impact on GDP (gross domestic product) growth. This is because infrastructure sector, through its forward and backward linkages, has ripple effects on different economic activities. The Asian Development Bank has estimated that 10% growth in infrastructure sector contributes one percentage point to India’s GDP," said Soumendra K. Dash, chief economist at CARE Ratings.

The infrastructure indices are initially expected to include sectors such as road, railways, aviation, shipping, water and sanitation, power and energy and telecommunications.