Economist Sudipto Mundle points out that no one has questioned the numbers, says controversy is political.
New Delhi: The economist behind the back-series GDP report — which showed higher growth during UPA years than under four years of NDA rule — has told ThePrint that there is nothing wrong with the data.
Economist Sudipto Mundle headed the Committee on Real Sector Statistics appointed by the Modi government. The report of the panel pegged the average growth rate during 10 years of UPA rule at more than 8 per cent, while concluding that it has been 7.35 per cent in the last four years of the NDA government.
“The controversy is not about the numbers or the data that has been published; nobody has questioned the numbers that have been put out. It is more political in nature and that is somewhat natural — the opposition parties will say that they did things better and the ruling party will say that they are doing things right. It is part of the game,” Mundle told ThePrint.
The report was first published on the website of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation on 25 July. It led to a political row after the media reported it at the end of last week, triggering a war of words between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress.
On Monday, the report was removed from its original url or web address in the reports section of the ministry website and posted in the ‘Draft Reports’ section of the National Statistical Commission under the ‘About Us’ section of the website. It is now titled as a ‘Draft Report on Real Sector Statistics’.
The Modi government has also insisted that the report is only a draft and “should not be quoted anywhere”.
A top finance ministry official said the report was removed as it was not an “official” one. “We have removed it as it is a draft report,” the official said, adding that the high growth rate during UPA was due to the government’s policies that in turn led to an unusual expansion of demand.
‘Not my personal assessment’
Mundle, who is a member of the Board of Governors of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, also dismissed claims by some unnamed government officials that the report was purely his opinion and assessment. He said that it was the committee that prepared the report and that it was not just based on his personal inputs.
The economist believes that the controversy arose after the report was pushed to the homepage of the ministry’s website. “It was a routine statistical procedure and since it was suddenly put up on the home page it got noticed leading to this controversy,” he said, adding that even the numbers are not very different from what they were earlier.
Mundle, however, said that he expected the 2018-19 first quarter GDP growth rate, to be announced on 31 August, to be above 7 per cent. “Growth rate that slowed down has bottomed out and we are doing quite well. A 7-plus per cent growth rate in this current scenario is quite commendable,” he said.
The economist, however, warned that global risks arising out of the imminent trade war and elevated oil prices continue to pose a challenge and that India needed to be watchful.