New Delhi: A day after Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram blasted the revised GDP figures by Niti Aayog which have downsized the growth rate during the previous UPA regime, finance minister Arun Jaitley defended the revision saying it was done by a “highly credible” organisation, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which maintains an arm’s length distance from the finance ministry.
He said the revised numbers, based on a new formula with 2011-12 as the base year, are globally more comparable as they take into account a far greater representation of the Indian economy and are more reflective of its real state.
The new numbers show India’s economic growth rate averaged 6.7 per cent during the Congress-led UPA regime as compared to 7.3 per cent under the present government. Previous numbers had put the average growth rate during the 10-year UPA rule at 7.75 per cent.
The finance minister said that the data agency that was hailed by the UPA in 2015 is now being criticised because the GDP growth has been revised downwards.
Mr Jaitley said that the revised economic growth data has taken away Congress party’s last surviving argument “my GDP growth was higher than your”.
Meanwhile Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar accepted Mr Chidambaram’s challenge to debate the GDP data. The former finance minister’s main contention was that the government think tank was not mandated to compile the GDP data.
“Hon. @PChidamb aram_IN Ji, challenge accepted. Let’s discuss & dissect back series data. I gave 3 hrs of detailed interview yesterday & it is somewhat disingenuous of you to say that I asked the media to not ask questions. Do give more coherent reasons for ur difficulty with new data,” Mr Kumar said in a tweet.
Taking on the Congress for criticising the revision, Mr Jaitley said that the Congress had welcomed the upward revision in growth numbers of the last two years of the UPA regime by the same CSO and had gone to the extent of saying that the “the new GDP series has conclusively established
that we did not mismanage the economy”.
Mr Jaitley said, “I don’t think any service is being rendered by people who choose to discredit a highly credible organisation like the CSO because its data is based on facts and the revised formulations, (and it is) a continuous exercise because every time you try and improve upon the formulations to make them more representative of the real state of economy.”
“The CSO is a highly credible organisation, it maintains an arm’s length distance from the finance ministry,” he said. “In fact, we also come to know of the data only when it is released. All former individuals and eminent people who headed the CSO are of the same opinion that this data is far more inclusive and far more reflective of the situation of Indian economy and therefore has far greater credibility.”
Earlier responding to Mr Chidambaram’s criticism of Niti Aayog over the issue, the Aayog’s vice chairman Kumar accepted the challenge and invited him to discuss and dissect the data.
“I wonder if Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar will agree to a debate the data than telling journalists that their questions are undeserving of an answer,” Mr Chidambaram had tweeted.
In a series of tweets, Mr Kumar stressed that Niti Aayog uses data extensively for making logical policy recommendations and the data is always based on assessment and quality check by eminent statisticians.
“Therefore, it was logical for @NITIAayog to provide the platform for its release. Pronab Sen would know that MOSPI & Yojana Bhavan worked closely together,” he said.
Mr Chidambaram had termed the revision of GDP data as a “hatchet job” by Niti Aayog and said it was time to windup the “utterly worthless body”.
“Former chief statistician Pronab Sen is absolutely correct. Niti Aayog has nothing to do with tabulation of data,” the former finance minister added.