108 economists and academics just asked the Indian government to stop interfering with economic data

Reuters

  • In a joint statement released on March 14th, 108 economists and social scientists in India and abroad decried the political interference in India’s statistical institutions like the CSO and NSSO.
  • The statement included signatories such as Jean Dreze, Amartya Lahiri and Satish Deshpande.
  • Terming economic data a “public good, it appealed to all the country’s economists to raise their voices against the “suppression of uncomfortable data”

In a joint statement released on March 14th, 108 economists and social scientists in India and abroad decried the political interference in India’s statistical institutions like the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

The statement included signatories such as Jean Dreze, Amartya Lahiri and Satish Deshpande.

Terming economic data a “public good, it explained the risk to the credibility of India’s statistics bodies and appealed to all the country’s economists to raise their voices against the “ suppression of uncomfortable data” and lobby the government to “ re-establish institutional independence and integrity to the statistical organisations.

The statement specifically highlighted the problems inherent in the Modi administration’s release of back-dated series of GDP data. It also said that the government’s base-year system of revision inflated growth rates when compared with estimates by independent economists.

In November last year, India’s Ministry of Statistics, in conjunction with government think tank, Niti Aayog, released a revised set of GDP data that showed that growth under the previous Congress government between 2004-05 and 2013-14 was less than what the current BJP-led administration has achieved over the last four years.


The joint statement also cited the government’s concealment of its latest jobs report - the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) - owing to its unfavourable findings. In an election year, anything that calls into question its economic track record is sure to be used by its opponents.

At the end of January 2019, PC Manohan and JV Meenakshi - the only external members of India’s National Statistics Commission - resigned from the body after the government shelved the report. The report, which was subsequently leaked, showed that unemployment hit a 45-year high in 2017-18.

In response to the statement, PC Manohan said that India’s political parties should pay attention to the economists’ concerns.

SEE ALSO:

Modi government has a hidden jobs report — say two independent bureaucrats who just quit

India’s BJP-led government has released a set of revised GDP data that dramatically reduces growth during the previous administration’s tenure
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