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NSC resignations reignite GDP back series controversy


IANS New Delhi
A fresh controversy erupted on the back series of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over which two members of National Statistical Commission (NSC) resigned triggering Opposition criticism that called it the death of the institution.
"We mourn the death of the NSC and remember with gratitude its valiant fight to release untainted GDP data and employment data," Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tweeted attacking the Narendra Modi-led government.
Two external members of the NSC, Acting Chairman P.C. Mohanan and J.V. Meenakshi, had resigned on Monday citing differences with the government on issues related to jobs data and GDP back series data, saying the government was not taking the NSC seriously.
The resignations have left the NSC, which has a strength of seven members, with only two members Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, as three posts are lying vacant. The NSC has no external members now.
"One more venerable institution died on January 29, 2019 owing to malicious negligence by the government," Chidambaram said while wishing for its rebirth in another tweet. The NSC is under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
Mohanan has alleged that the NSC was not consulted before releasing the back series data on GDP. The release of GDP back series data by NITI Aayog last November had created a furore as to how it got involved in the Central Statistics Office (CSO) work.
The back series data had revised the GDP growth rates during the UPA years downward which initiated a political slugfest with both ruling party BJP and opposition Congress trying to impress that their economic policies were superior to that of the other.
Another politically sensitive issue that the resignations have brought up is related to the employment survey carried out by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), which was approved by the Commission last December but is yet to go for publication.
The complaint by the two about the delay in publication of the employment survey has armed the Opposition to intensify its attack on the government for lack of jobs, particularly when the general election is due in a few months.
However, the Ministry of Statistics said the two members never brought up the issues to them and that it valued the Commission for its expertise.
"The members had expressed certain concerns on the functioning of the Commission including release of the labour force survey results and the back series of GDP. These concerns were not expressed by the members in any of the meetings of the Commission in the last few months," the MoSPI said in a statement.
The Ministry "not only places a high regard for the Commission but also values its advice and on which appropriate action is taken", it said.
On the labour force survey, it said NSSO is processing the quarterly data for the period July 2017 to December 2018 and the report will be released thereafter.
"Insofar as the back series of the GDP is concerned, the NSC had itself urged the Ministry to finalise and release it. The official estimates of the back series of GDP were accordingly computed using the methodology adopted in the 2011-12 base year serious," it said.
It was approved by the experts in Advisory Committee on National Accounts Statistics, which is the appropriate body, the Ministry noted and added that it was later discussed in the NSC.
"The NSC provides valuable guidance and strategic direction to the statistical activities in the central and state governments," it said.
The Ministry is in regular dialogue with the other Ministries and state governments to improve the availability and coverage of data, it added.

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 6:00 PM IST

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