Govt says GDP data not official; catch up with UPA II, taunts Cong

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The government and the Congress sparred on Sunday over conclusions thrown up by the back-series gross domestic product (GDP) figures, provided by a panel, while the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation said the numbers were not official.

The data showed economic growth touched double digits twice during the UPA regime (2004-14) and average growth delivered by the government then was much better than that of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA 1) government of 1998-2004 and the first four years of the Modi government (NDA 2).

This prompted the Congress to field its veteran hand P Chidambaram, who was finance minister for the most part of the UPA days, to take on the ruling dispensation. “The data showed that UPA I (2004-09) and UPA II (2009-14) had delivered the highest decadal growth at 8.13 per cent,” Chidambaram said at a press conference.

Chidambaram said the Modi government had inherited an economy that was on the upswing. Unfortunately, after the first two years, the government stumbled and the momentum was lost, he said, adding, the main reasons for these were demonetisation, implementing the goods and services tax in a flawed manner, and tax terrorism.

Countering this, Union minister Arun Jaitley, who is expected to resume charge of the finance ministry shortly, said the UPA government got the advantage of a beneficial external world and the reforms of the first NDA government. 

"2003-04 witnessed the boom period for the global economy. The result was that global growth picked up ... The period continued till 2008, when the global crisis started," he said.
Jaitley said when the go-go years ended, growth started slipping and to ensure that it sustained, two significant steps were taken — first, fiscal discipline was compromised and banks were advised to go in for big lending, notwithstanding the fact that it would put them at risk.

"And yet when the UPA moved out of power in 2014, the last three-year record, even in terms of growth, was less than modest," he said.

Jaitley gave figures on the current account balance, the fiscal deficit, inflation and bank credit to prove how the UPA “compromised” on macroeconomic stability. 

For instance, he said the current account balance was in surplus at 0.5 per cent of GDP under NDA I, in deficit at 1.2 per cent under UPA I, at 3.3 per cent under UPA II and at 1.2 per cent in the first four years of the second NDA government.

He said, “After 2014, when the global economy was in slowdown mode, it was India and India alone which has been the fastest-growing economy in the world for the last four years and has consistently overtaken China in growth rate."

Chidambaram said: "The management of the economy today is not in very competent hands. There is no dearth of people in the country who can manage the economy. Unfortunately, they are not found in the present government."
Sanjeev Sanyal, who is principal economist in the finance ministry, said the suggested back-series showed growth had accelerated to more than 8 per cent in 2003-04, the last year of the first NDA government, following a series of important reforms. 

NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said higher growth rates in 2009-2011 and in previous years were funded by an untenable fiscal deficit and a reckless expansion of commercial bank credit. 

The ministry, meanwhile, said these numbers were based on methodology recommended by panels of experts and other methodologies were being explored.