Home / Politics / Policy /  Govt junks survey on consumer spending citing data issues

The statistics ministry has decided to junk the 75th round of the Consumer Expenditure Survey 2017-18, citing discrepancies and divergence from other administrative data.

It also said the Advisory Committee on National Accounts Statistics has rejected a proposal to shift the gross domestic product (GDP) base year to 2017-18 from 2011-12, as the proposed year was not “appropriate".

Until recently, chief statistician of India Pravin Srivastava had maintained that a final decision on shifting the base year to 2017-18 will be taken soon. Analysts, however, said that it was not a normal year as it had to absorb the impact of demonetization and roll out of the of goods and services tax.

Business Standard newspaper on Friday quoted the survey, saying that the average amount of money spent by a person fell by 3.7% to 1,446 per month in 2017-18 compared to 2011-12, marking the first such fall in more than four decades, primarily driven by slackening rural demand.

“In view of the data quality issues, the ministry has decided not to release the Consumer Expenditure Survey results of 2017-2018. The ministry is separately examining the feasibility of conducting the next Consumer Expenditure Survey in 2020-2021 and 2021-22 after incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process," the government said in a statement on Friday.

The ministry also denied that the report was withheld due to its ‘adverse’ findings. “We would like to emphatically state that there is a rigorous procedure for vetting of data and reports, which are produced through surveys. All such submissions, which come to the ministry, are draft in nature and cannot be deemed to be the final report," it added.

P.C. Mohanan, former chairman of the National Statistical Commission, who had resigned in January protesting a delay in the release of the employment survey report, said: “The difficulty in collecting consumer expenditure data, especially related to the recall period, is known. But the way the government reacted is unfortunate."

The ministry said results of the survey were examined and it was noted that there was a significant increase in the divergence in not only the levels in the consumption pattern, but also the direction of the change when compared to other administrative data sources like the actual production of goods and services.

“Concerns were also raised about the ability/sensitivity of the survey instrument to capture consumption of social services by households, especially on health and education. The matter was thus referred to a committee of experts, which noted the discrepancies and came out with several recommendations, including a refinement in the survey methodology and improving the data quality aspects on a concurrent basis. The recommendations of the committee are being examined for implementation in future surveys," it added.

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