Govt heeds economists’ advice, defers releasing GDP back series data
New Delhi : Minutes before the back series of gross domestic product (GDP) for the base year 2011-12 was to be released, the NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) on Monday decided to “defer” it. The decision was taken at a meeting between the two along with economists.
“During the discussion, experts sought analytical information, which is being worked out. It was, therefore, decided to have a follow-up round-table discussion with experts soon,” said Anna Roy, advisor for data management and analysis at the NITI Aayog said. The release of the data could have put to rest all speculations that rose after the National Statistical Commission (NSC) came out with its recommendations on the back series data, which showed two years of double-digit growth in the UPA regime.
Sources in government said it was cautious about the data since it pertains to economic growth during previous governments. In addition, they said MoSPI officials were unable to answer queries raised by experts.
“The experts said a better understanding of the back series at the disaggregated levels was needed. In addition, the series needs to be substantiated with pertinent data used to formulate it, such as interest rates of previous years, which needs to be obtained from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The process would be complete in the next two weeks,” said a senior official. Questions were raised on the methodology, the econometric model and the assumptions made to arrive at the values for previous years. But officials present at the meeting said this was merely a “technical deferral”. Formulating a back series requires several assumptions that have to be substantiated with pertinent data, the officials said.
“Back series formulation is a research exercise involving a multitude of approximations. Whenever there is a considerable divergence between the back series (Base: 2011-12) and the old series (Base: 2004-05), the reasons for it must be clear,” one of the experts present at the consultation said. The CSO is using a variety of data sets for the purpose of creating the back series, including data from MCA-21 — the Ministry of Corporate Affairs data set, Annual Survey of Industries, and the Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy.
In addition to Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava, former CSI T C A Anant, former chairman of National Statistical Commission (NSC) R B Barman, former NSC member Manoj Kumar Panda, and Biswanath Goldar, economics professor at the Institute of Economic Growth were some of the experts invited by the NITI Aayog. The meeting was facilitated by Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar. The Sudipto Mundle committee on real sector statistics in its report to the NSC in July had devised a back series for the base year 2011-12. This report had created a political storm, since with the new base GDP growth in two of the years under the previous government crossed the 10 per cent mark.
The Mundle report had mentioned that CSO had already formulated ‘tentative’ estimates for the official back series using a variety of data sets. These tentative estimates were sent to the Advisory Committee of National Accounts Statistics for deliberation. These were then finalised, after which the parent ministry MoSPI, in consultation with NITI Aayog, decided to release the data.