27 July, 2021

The Numbers, Juggled

The CSO’s new GDP data is more sleight of hand than the reality

Illustration by Saahil
The Numbers, Juggled

On June 8, 1891, an irate reader wrote to the editor of British newspaper, The National Observer, “Sir, it has been wittily remarked that there are three kinds of falsehood: the first is a ‘fib’, the second is a downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics.” Fifteen years later, Mark Twain repeated this in his Chapters from my Autobiography, observing, “Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself.” In the past decade, figures have more than beguiled India’s economic policymakers—they have confused and misled them into enacting policies that have had a devastating effect upon the economy, and on people’s lives. Last week’s quota of fresh statistics helps us to understand why. On February 8, the Central Statistical Office sent a wave of euphoria through the country’s economic establishment by announcing that the GDP would grow by 7.4 per cent in 2014-15, and not the 5.4-5.9 per cent it had predicted till then. This would make India the fastest...

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