New Delhi: Days after 108 economists and social scientists accused the Narendra Modi government of altering or withholding unfavourable economic data, a group of 131 chartered accountants (CAs) defended the government and questioned the scholars’ political motivations.
The CAs asked all professionals to come together to portray the progress made by India in the last five years, and counter the “baseless allegations” made by the economists and social scientists.
“Between 1960 to 2014 (sic) India had been left behind by all its peers from Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Russia, South Africa and Sri Lanka in economic growth. None of these economists or social scientists ever made an appeal in those 54 long years that India is on a slow track and is being left behind,” the statement said.
“Now when India has become the Fastest Growing Economy in the world they are worried about the credibility of data. Is it their intention to scare Foreign Investors by creating doubts on the credibility of Data?” it added.
“This raises doubts as to their true intentions, and one ponders whether this concern emanates from the upcoming elections.”
The signatories include Manipal group chairman T.V. Mohandas Pai, a vocal supporter of the Modi government, Prafulla P. Chhajed, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), some past presidents of the ICAI, Kotak Asset Management Company managing director Nilesh Shah as well as Ajay Bahl, founder and partner at AZB Associates, a leading law firm.
The CAs also disputed the alarm raised by the economists on maintaining the integrity of Indian public statistics.
“The appeal seems even more devious as the data in respect of GDP, Poverty Alleviation, Ease of Doing Business are being duly published even by international agencies including World Bank, IMF and many others. The international data and independent agencies have clearly confirmed the data being published by Government agencies,” the CAs said.
The statement did not, however, delve at length on the accusation that the government withheld the jobs data compiled by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) because it showed a rise in the unemployment rate.
What economists had said
On 14 March, a group of 108 economists and social scientists, including Abhijit Sen, Himanshu, Jayati Ghosh and C.P. Chandrasekhar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, R. Nagaraj of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development and Research, Jean Dreze of Allahabad University and Abhijit Banerjee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had criticised the government’s recent decision to withhold the unemployment data, as well as its new GDP back series data.
The NDA government has been facing criticism for its decision to withhold the release of the NSSO’s employment survey for the year 2017-18, despite the nod of the National Statistical Commission (NSC).
The government has also been criticised for its new back series GDP data that drastically lowered growth rates during the regime of the previous UPA government. The numbers released by the NITI Aayog were in complete divergence from the numbers arrived at by a sub-committee of the NSC.
The resignation of NSC chairman P.C. Mohanan along with another member under protest earlier this year brought the issue to the fore. Subsequently, economists from across India and overseas issued a statement urging the government to protect the integrity of public statistics by providing autonomy to NSC and NSSO.