Is Indian GDP data turning a little too Chinese? Why to be Askance @ India’s Growth Figures?


India defied expectations on Tuesday to retain the title of the world’s fastest growing major economy, despite the pain caused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shock crackdown on cash.

Annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the October-December period came in at 7.0 per cent, a tad slower than 7.4 per cent in the previous quarter but much faster than the 6.4 per cent expansion forecast by economists in a Reuters poll. Economists are scratching their heads its almost seen for the economy is untouched by demonetisation now you are one of the strongest defendant of demonetisation. Would you agree that the economy was almost left untouched by demonetisation some pain was warranted was it not?

Shaktikanta Das: As we have explained earlier, we have to go by real statistics. Now, when the Q2 figures where the second quarter figures for the current year released the advanced estimates were released that time also we had explained that we have to go by real statistics and not by anecdotal evidence.

Being the fastest-growing large economy in the world is India’s destiny, and even the most poorly conceived economic policy imaginable can’t stop destiny….To say the data is startling is an understatement. The IMF had predicted that India would grow at around 6 percent in the half-year after “demonetisation,” as it’s called. Most independent economists forecast GDP growth would come in somewhere between 6 and 7 percent. Those economists naturally assumed that withdrawing 86 percent of the country’s currency and reducing access to bank accounts would dampen private consumption.  

Yet if one believes the government’s numbers, taking away most of India’s cash overnight didn’t hurt private spending at all. In fact, private consumption rose by 10.1 percent over the quarter. That’s the highest growth in spending in over five years, and it came at a time when consumer confidence was falling sharply. 

My take on the statistics:
Well, this is a simple tweaking of the equations that differentiate the growth curve. In short, we have all been a part of exams where 9/10 is different from 99/100, even if just one number distances the actual score from the maximum one could score. On similar lines, the crimes of growth are factored in on growth year/base year. This is mathematical jugglery narrowed in on political ends. Whichever way one looks at the data, some of the indicators are still found lagging the composite growth, thereby dumbing down the economists when the growth curve mandates a pattern recognition.
GDP, when calculated at Factor Cost is related with GDP at Market Price, and written as an equation of the form,
GDP (FC) = GDP (MP) – indirect takes + subsidies
While, Gross Value Added,
GVA (basic prices) = Sum (net of production taxes & subsidies) to GDP (factor cost)
Stamp duties and property taxes make up the production taxes, whereas labour, capital and investment subsidies are the other half. Why is this done? To inflate GDP after it starts representing the GDP of a country in terms of total GVA, i.e. without discounting for depreciation. Moreover, GDP at market price adds taxes and deducts subsidies on products and services to GDP at factor cost. The sum total of the GVA in various economic activities is called the GDP at factor cost. With a change in method and a subsequent change in base year, India has increased or rather expanded its manufacturing base in the sense of capturing it.  This has also enabled the country to include informal sectors, which hitherto had not found its true manifestation. This is mere adherence to standards that become internationalized.
Now, what happens in India’s case is the part subsidies, which has been the fixed denominator for our GDP, unlike most of the developed world, or even the developing economies. So, our GDP hitherto had largely been GDP (FC). After rearranging the equation above, GDP (FC) would have subtraction of the subsidies part, and yield GDP (MP), thus changing the base completely, and giving a large share of the economy as growing, rather than the dismal one predicted in the wake of demonetization. This has been effectuated since 2012 implying that whatever happens after demonetization, the growth period would project only redundant figures. Slip that into the quarterly period, and yes, the new base would indicate a growing economy, as used by the WB/IMF to forecast India growing more than China. So, there is nothing really dastardly an act here, but more about how to integrate the parts into the composite to yell at the world, we are growing.

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