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New Delhi: The government should address all methodological ambiguities in the gross domestic product or GDP data and ensure comprehensive coverage of all economic activities, including those in the unorganised informal sector, the standing committee on finance headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Jayant Sinha said Thursday.

The report was part of the review of the streamlining of the statistics collection machinery in the country and it also assessed the steps taken by the government on the previous recommendations of the committee.

The committee, in its report, said it is important that “economic activities and services including those in the unorganised/informal sector are comprehensively captured and reflected in the GDP framework so that the ground realities emerge clearly and data gaps on various socio-economic indices are bridged comprehensively….”.

It added that authentic and credible data is crucial for planning, policy structuring, informed decision making and inclusive growth.

“It is imperative that all methodological ambiguities are sorted out once and for all.”

The report of the committee was presented to the Speaker on 9 September and was uploaded on the Lok Sabha website this week.

The credibility and integrity of Indian statistics has been questioned over the last couple of years after India revised GDP growth projections lower in November 2018 for the years ruled by the Congress-led UPA government.

Further concerns over GDP data were raised after a paper released by former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian pointed out that India’s GDP growth may have been overestimated by 2.5 percentage points annually between 2011-12 and 2016-17.

The government’s decision to withhold the release of the jobs data that showed unemployment in India at a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent until after the elections further undermined the independence of India’s statistics.

Another instance was the Modi government’s decision to scrap the consumption expenditure survey that showed a fall in consumption levels in rural areas.

Also read: India’s economic recovery to be gradual, says RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das

‘Standing committee asks MOSPI to fill vacant positions’

The standing committee also asked the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) to fill the 785 vacant positions of senior and junior statistical officers in the statistical cadre immediately so that the ministry’s “core competency is not compromised.”

It also sought a study to find reasons for the high level of attrition and the ministry’s inability to attract requisite manpower.

The standing committee also stressed the need to reflect prices of education and healthcare services more accurately in the consumer price index.

The report stressed that indices compiled and published reflect the market conditions at the consumer level and get as close to the consumption pattern and standard of living as possible.

It also urged MOSPI to take up health-related data collection and surveys on a priority basis in light of the pandemic, pointing out that statistical inputs will help the Centre and the states in formulating their policies.

Also read: Asia’s economy will shrink for first time since 1960s, ADB says


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