Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday dubbed the "108 purported economists" alleging government interference in statistical data as a "fake campaign", saying these compulsive contrarians have repeatedly signed memorandums of manufactured political issues against the present regime. He was referring to a appeal made by 108 economists and social scientists including Jean Dreze (Allahabad University), Emily Breza (Harvard University), Satish Deshpande (Delhi University), Esther Duflo (MIT, US) and Jayati Ghosh (JNU) last week, expressing concerns over "political interference" in influencing statistical data in India.
They had called for restoration of "institutional independence" and integrity to the statistical organisations in the backdrop of controversy over revision of gross domestic product (GDP) numbers and withholding employment data by the NSSO. Rejecting the contention of economists, as many as 131 chartered accountants had stressed that India is poised to move on a higher growth trajectory and countered the concerns expressed by some economists and social scientists that economic statistics in the country are in shambles.
Highlighting the economic achievements of the Modi government, Jaitley in his ninth part of 'Agenda 2019' series of blogs said the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), which handles data management, always maintains an arm's length distance from the government and functions professionally and independently. "Our data is maintained as per the best global practices," he said adding the irony of a large number of Opposition leaders is that they specialise only in politicking and sloganeering rather than understanding the world of development and economy.
One of the fake campaigns against the present government has been on the question of economic data, he added. "The recent statement by the 108 purported economists needs to be analysed. Most of them have, over the last few years, repeatedly signed the memorandums of manufactured political issues against the present government. 'Compulsive contrarians' can hardly be objective," the minister said. Jaitley said there is a need to analyse as to where the country stands in terms of the economy. The period 2014-19 has witnessed the fastest ever growth of the GDP in India for a five-year term of any government and it has been a period of fiscal consolidation, he said while comparing the performance of current regime on the economic front with the previous governments.
He further claimed that the five-year GDP growth has been at an average 7.5 per cent, the fastest amongst the major economies of the world. Inflation has been broadly under control and fiscal deficit has gradually slid down, he noted. The external debt as a percentage of the GDP is on the decline and there is a significant improvement in the current account balance of the government, the minister noted. He also dismissed concerns over employment generation saying it would be "preposterous" to contend that the fastest growing economy in the world is actually losing jobs and that even the 17.1 crore Mudra loans created no jobs through self-employment.