Need action: 108 economists, scientists tell Modi government to restore the integrity of data

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Published: March 15, 2019 1:00:35 PM

CSO also recently revised the estimates of GDP growth for the year 2016-17 to 8.2 per cent from the 7.1 per cent earlier. The growth number is not in line with the estimated growth by many economists, which shows a lower growth due to demonetisation, economists said in the letter.

(Representational Photo)

Historically, India has maintained a high level of reputation for the integrity of the statistical data produced for a range of economic and social parameters. However, lately the debate on the credibility of the such data has gained steam.

108 economists and social scientists across the world raising their concerns on political interference influencing official data, have appealed in a letter to look into the issue with utmost seriousness as statistical integrity is an imperative for making sound decisions and economic policy.

The letter highlights many events in the past which has raised their apprehensions. For instance, the new method of calculating GDP growth opted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) since 2015 has shown a significantly higher growth for some years, which do not square with related macro-aggregates.

Here are the top things 108 economists and scientists have brought up in their letter:

CSO also recently revised the estimates of GDP growth for the year 2016-17 to 8.2 per cent from the 7.1 per cent earlier. The growth number is not in line with the estimated growth by many economists, which shows a lower growth due to demonetisation, economists said in the letter.

In 2018, the estimates of growth prepared by the two organisation namely, National Statistical Commission (NSC) and Central Statistics Organisation (CSO) showed contrasting results with the former showing lower growth than the later. However, later, the NSC data was removed from the official websites and the CSO estimates were presented to the public by the Niti Ayog. This has resulted in a significant damage to the institutional integrity of the autonomous statistical bodies, economists said in the letter

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Moreover, recently, the Modi government after withholding the release of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data on unemployment, has decided to junk it in all. It will now instead use findings of the Labour Bureau survey on jobs instead, created under the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) scheme.

However, a leaked report has revealed that the unemployment in India had hit a 40-year-high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18 according to the draft report of National Sample Survey. The period also saw resignation b two members of NSSO, including the acting chairman.

In the light of these events, the economists and scientists in the letter has appealed to restore the credibility of the public data, and re-establish institutional independence and integrity to the statistical organisations.

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