26 DAYS TO GO
100 economists raise concern over ‘political interference’ in Data
India’s Lok Sabha Election 2019
MUMBAI, Mar 15: A group of more than 100 experts sounded a pre-election alarm Friday over Indian economic data, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of tweaking or burying unwelcoming numbers.Modi is vulnerable over his economic record in the polls starting on April 11, in particular a failure to meet promises to create enough jobs for the million Indians entering the labour market each month.
The warning comes after India's central bank chief quit in December in a spat over alleged government interference. His successor, a Modi ally, oversaw a economy-boosting cut in interest rates last month in his first monetary policy meeting.
The 108 economists and social scientists said in an open letter that Indian statistics were "under a cloud for being influenced and indeed even controlled by political considerations". "(Any) statistics that cast an iota of doubt on the achievement of the government seem to get revised or suppressed on the basis of some questionable ideology," they said.
The opposition Congress party of Rahul Gandhi, who has called Modi's record on employment a "national disaster", jumped on the letter. "How much more can this govt. embarrass us on a global level?," the party said on its official Twitter account.
Economists in fellow emerging Asian giant China and abroad have long suspected that data there is also massaged, often noting that full-year gross domestic product hits Beijing's pre-set targets with suspicious regularity.
In 2015, the Indian Central Statistics Office (CSO) revised economic output numbers for past years, changing the base year and showing significantly faster -- and questionable -- growth rates.
The letter also questioned a revised growth rate of 8.2 percent in 2016-17, "the highest in a decade!", that "seems to be at variance with the evidence marshalled by many economists".
That raised particular suspicion since it was when "demonetisation" -- one of Modi's biggest and most derided economic policies when 86 percent of banknotes were withdrawn -- hit businesses hard. - AFP