No politics in GDP data estimates

No politics in GDP data estimatesNo politics in GDP data estimates
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Hyderabad: Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog, on Wednesday ruled out any political interference in...

Hyderabad: Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog, on Wednesday ruled out any political interference in the compilation of GDP data and said: "India's global reputation is very high now when it comes to economy and finances".

"There is no political interference. GDP data is calculated based on inputs collected by our survey agencies and clinically calculated values. GDP is data. How can there be political interference in it?" Dr V K Saraswat, as he is popularly known, told The Hans India on the side-lines of a CII event here.

His comments assume significance in the wake of 108 economists and social scientists from India and abroad issuing a joint statement last week, expressing concerns over political interference in influencing statistical data including GDP numbers. Economists from IIMs in India, Harvard University and University of Massachusetts, US, are part of the group.

Citingfrequent upward revision of GDP data by CSO and withholding employment data by National Statistical Survey Organisation (NSSO), they called for the restoration of institutional independence and integrity to the statistical organisations. The controversy took a new turn on Tuesday when 131 chartered accounts backed the central government, saying India was poised for higher growth.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described the economists as compulsive contrarians. Asked about the economists' comment that India's reputation took a beating because of the Government's attempts to make the economic data appear rosy, he said that India's global standing was very high.

"As far as economy and finances are concerned, India's global reputation is very high. Our credit rating is improving from B2 to above B now. We are in a much better position as regards to financial viability of the country. It has drastically improved in last five years," he said.

Dr Saraswat, who earlier served as Director General of DRDO and the Chief Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister, also maintained that NITI Aayog won't interfere in the compilation of GDP data. "NITI Aayog doesn't interfere. It does the thinking. In addition, it estimates what is happening in the country and advises the government as to what steps are needed to make more progress," he stated.

He also said that NITI Aayog would never meddle with ongoing programmes. "However, we carry out outcome evaluation of what is happening (on the ground). For instance, all the schemes being implemented in Telangana are wonderful schemes. We need to see what outcome of these schemes is. There is a difference between outcome and output.

Outcome is the direct impact on the society whether it's farmers, education, health or entrepreneurs. That means we need to see actual impact. That's what NITI Aayog does," he said. On the employment data, he said the central government was not withholding any employment data as alleged by the economists.

"Employment is a tricky issue. There are various sectors that generate jobs. All the surveys are done in organised sector. But unorganised sector accounts for 42 per cent of total jobs, but we never bother about it. No one takes into account the number of new drivers added by cab aggregators like Uber and Ola or the number of new traders who set up businesses, thus creating new jobs," he pointed out.

Saraswat said that lots of employment opportunities had been created. "It's wrong to say that employment opportunities have come down. One Swachh Bharat scheme alone has generated a large number of jobs," he said. According to him, economists make their analysis based on limited data they have and the perception they hold. However, theirs is not the last word on the subject of economic data.

-P Madhusudhan Reddy

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