By Sunil Garodia
It needs to be recognized that modern economy – in fact, even society – is increasingly being driven by data. Hence, it is imperative that data collection, analysis and presentation are robust, timely and credible. Since the Indian economy is in the top six in the world and growing at a good rate, both domestic and international investors look to invest here and their decisions are largely based on sectoral data and related policy decisions of the government. The government also takes policy decisions based on economic data.
Hence, frequent tinkering with back data confuses economists and investors and is not good for generating inflow of funds in the economy or for formulating policy. The NDA government has shifted the base year for calculations from 2004-05 to 2011-12. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong in this as it brings data closer to current prices given that inflation skews the figures over time, the effects have triggered a political row. The new set of back data show that the growth rate during the first four years of UPA I & II was 6.7%, much lower than the earlier figure of 8.1% (with 2004-05 as base) and lower than the 7.4% achieved under NDA in the last four years (with 2011-12 as base).
Periodic updating of the base year is necessary and is done in all economies across the globe. It is not as if the UPA growth rate has been rubbished by the new set of data. Those who understand economics, statistics and data will always talk about growth rates as per the base year from which they are calculated. Hence, there is no need for political squabbling. But it also needs to be stressed that frequent tinkering with data, window dressing figures and presenting them in slanted way is not proper and should be avoided at all costs.