27 February, 2021

The Numbers, Juggled

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

Illustration by Saahil
The Numbers, Juggled
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

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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