Economists and social scientists slam political interference in the work of agencies that collect and analyse statistics. GDP data projections are not in line with the evidence of most economists.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Some 108 economists from around the world issued a statement yesterday, casting doubts on the accuracy of India’s statistics and calling on the Indian government under Narendra Modi to restore the "institutional independence” and integrity of the agencies that collect and analyse population and economic data.
The signatories include Rakesh Basant (IIM-A), James Boyce (University of Massachusetts at Amherst, US), Emily Breza (Harvard University, US), Satish Deshpande (Delhi University), Patrick Francois (University of British Columbia, Canada), R Ramakumar (TISS, Mumbai), Hema Swaminathan (IIM-B) and Rohit Azad (JNU).
This follows the resignation of two members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), including the acting chairman, who felt the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) was delaying the release of a report with data that could harm the image of the government.
That latter showed that, for the first time, India’s unemployment had reached record levels – 6.1 per cent of the workforce (about 11 million people), the highest in 45 years.
Citing an instance wherein the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revised upward GDP growth estimates for 2016-17 by 1.1 percentage points to 8.2 per cent, the highest in a decade, the economists say: "This seems to be at variance with the evidence marshalled by many economists".
The period in question coincides with demonetisation and 500 and 1,000 banknotes.
For the experts, “The reputation of India's statistical bodies in the country and globally is at stake”. It is thus imperative that the CSO and the NSSO not be subjected to political interference and that their work enjoy total credibility.