Back series of GDP likely this month, says chief statistician

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The policy seeks to strengthen NSC by constituting it as a public corporation by law.
NEW DELHI: The government is working on bringing out the back series of GDP this month, said Pravin Srivastava, newly appointed secretary to the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI) and India’s third chief statistician.

The government is working on three more surveys and will outsource data collection for some of the upcoming surveys, Srivastava told ET, after taking charge of the position vacated by TCA Anant, who retired in January after a seven-year stint.
Srivastava, a 1983-batch Indian Statistical Service officer, has taken over as India’s chief statistician at a time when the government is working on a back series of economic growth and overhauling the entire statistical system based on a National Policy on Official Statistics. Srivastava was previously additional director general at MoSPI.

“We are working on bringing out the back series of GDP this month,” he told ET.

The national accounts numbers had been recast in 2015 to shift to an internally followed system and the base year had also been updated to 2011-12.

This required adjustment of previous year numbers to the new base. Calculations by a committee headed by Sudipto Mundle showed growth exceeded 10% in certain years of the UPA government, leading to claims and counterclaims between the ruling and the opposition parties over their performance.

The back series adjustment by the committee set up by the National Statistical Commission (NSC) revealed higher GDP growth over 2003-04 to 2011-12 and lower growth before that up to 1994-95. The report is only a recommendation and not official data, MoSPI had then said.
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GDP

Srivastava has identified strengthening of administrative statistics, robust survey mechanism in states, more teeth to NSC and higher professionalism in the system as his priority areas. These suggestions are part of the draft policy on official statistics, which would soon be placed in a committee of secretaries for discussion.

“We are preparing a note on the proposals, which need to be implemented soon,” he said.

The policy seeks to strengthen NSC by constituting it as a public corporation by law, entrusting it with powers to regulate and audit core statistics besides giving it financial autonomy starting with an endowment fund of Rs 500 crore among a host of measures to plug data discrepancies and establish credibility.

NEW SURVEYS, OUTSOURCING DATA COLLECTION
Srivastava said the government will outsource data collection for the upcoming surveys such as the time use survey, annual survey of services and the one on unincorporated sector enterprises to private staffing agencies.
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Faced with severe manpower shortage, the ministry will float a request for proposal to outsource data collection to private staffing agencies.

“With new surveys, there will be load on our statistical machinery and we would need people on contract to collect data. We plan to have on board retired officials to monitor this data,” he said.

A consortium of agencies could be roped in to create a pool of people to collect data and to train them. Though the private staffing firms would be responsible for data collection of these computer-based surveys, Srivastava said the data would be safe as only officials would be able to vet it.

“The aim is to shift to technology-based surveys to collect and validate data quickly,” he said.

MoSPI will roll out three new surveys this year for which it has received the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. The committee approved Rs 64 crore for Annual Survey of Service Sector Enterprises, Rs 46 crore for Annual Survey of Unincorporated Sector Enterprises and Rs 33 crore for the Time Use Survey.

The ministry has also been allocated around Rs 900 crore for the Economic Census, which was done on a quinquennial basis but would now be conducted once in three years.
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