Modi, opponents spar over old GDP

NEW DELHI • How fast did India’s economy expand 11 years ago? It’s a question that has kicked up a political row in the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s (picture) team spent the weekend underplaying a panel’s estimates that showed gross domestic product (GDP) grew 10.08% in the financial year ended March 2007 under the then government led by the Congress party. That pace is the fastest on record and undermines Modi’s narrative of steering India to now make it the fastest-growing major economy in the world.

Opposition parties have latched on to the July 15 report of the National Statistical Commission — an autonomous body mandated to evolve policies, priorities and standards in statistical matters.

A table toward the end of the 178-page “Report of the Committee on Real Sector Statistics” shows the economy expanded at a record pace should one apply the new GDP methodology to data of past years.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Sunday said the numbers set the record straight that the Congress partyled government delivered higher growth rates than the current administration.

The government said there’s nothing official about the report. The recommendations will be examined to decide the appropriate methodology to be adopted for generating the back series, the Statistics Ministry said.

Federal Minister Arun Jaitley has defended the data, saying the Congress-led government merely reaped the benefits of policies laid down by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government.

Modi’s policies, though disruptive in the short term, have received endorsements from international agencies, including the International Monetary Fund and Moody’s Investors Service. Still, there’s criticism that growth under Modi hasn’t been accompanied by job creation, and the report on GDP growth of past years has only added to the controversy. — Bloomberg