Arun Jaitley defends revised GDP numbers for UPA era, says CSO is a credible organisation

Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has called the revision a “bad joke.”

November 29, 2018 01:21 pm | Updated 06:01 pm IST - New Delhi

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the Shastri Bhavan in New Delhi on November 22, 2018.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the Shastri Bhavan in New Delhi on November 22, 2018.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday defended the revision in the GDP growth rate during the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, saying the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which came out with the revised numbers, was a credible organisation that keeps the Finance Ministry at arm's length.

A day after Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava, in an unusual move, announced the revised numbers based on back series data alongside Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar, Mr. Jaitley said, “I don’t think any service is being rendered by those who discredit the highly credible organisation, CSO.”

Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday called the revision a “bad joke.”

“Niti Aayog’s revised GDP numbers are a joke. They are a bad joke,” he had tweeted. “Actually they are worse than a bad joke. The numbers are the result of a hatchet job.”

Mr. Jaitley said that when the CSO revised upward the growth rate of 2012-13 and 2013-14, the then government welcomed the decision. The same yardstick had been applied by the CSO while revising the growth downwards.

Just months before the general elections, the country’s economic growth rate in the previous Congress-led UPA regime was lowered on Wednesday, shaving off over 1 percentage point from the only year when India posted double digit GDP growth post liberalisation and from each of the three years with 9-plus % expansion.

Recalibrating data of past years using 2011-12 as the base year instead of 2004-05, the CSO estimated that India’s GDP grew by 8.5% in the financial year 2010-11 (April 2010 to March 2011) and not at 10.3% as previously estimated.

Similarly, 9.3% growth rate each in 2005-06 and 2006-07 was lowered to 7.9% and 8.1%, respectively, while 7.7% rate was now estimated for 2007-08 instead of 9.8%.

A “hatchet job” by Niti Aayog: Chidambaram

Mr. Chidambaram had called the revision a “hatchet job” by Niti Aayog.

“Now that Niti Aayog has done the hatchet job, it is time to wind up the utterly worthless body,” he had tweeted. “The earlier numbers were calculated by the National Statistical Commission. Has the commission been disbanded?”

“Former Chief Statistician Pranab Sen is absolutely correct. Niti Aayog has nothing to do with tabulation of data,” he said. “I wonder if Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar will agree to a debate on the data than telling journalists that their questions are “undeserving of an answer,” he said.

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