India’s Unreliable Statistics

Where’s Waldo? Photo by Ranjith Shenoyr


Indian statistics are under fire. Really, what can you say about India with any accuracy. It’s a billion people, 400+ languages, countless dialects, innumerable races, [adjective here] races, many, many, uh, things. You can’t even appeal to the gods for help cause there’s 330 million of them.

Now the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is saying that government stats are unreliable and they can’t work with them. Here are some examples of dodgy figures.

GDP

in February 2010, the advance estimate for GDP growth for 2009-10 was pegged at 6.8%. Three months later, this was revised to 7.7% while in February 2011, the quick estimates pegged it at 9.1%-a change of over 40% within a year (ibid).

Given a figure of $1.216 trillion in 2008, those are pretty big differences. That’s a difference of about $28 billion dollars if my own dodgy calculations are right (1.298 trillion at the low end, 1.326 at the high). That’s only $8 billion more than America’s air conditioning bill for Afghanistan and Iraq, but still a lot.

Employment

India’s employment data is especially dodgy. According to the NSSO, over half of the population is self-employed, but that’s often a fancy word for unemployed. They definitely earn less money. By their stats, only 15% of Indians have what I’d consider a job. That self-employment figure, however, enables them to show both less jobs and less unemployment.

RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao said, “The recently put out data on employment throw up a paradox as they simultaneously indicate fewer jobs created in the five-year period to 2010 along with a decline in the long-term unemployment rate.” (Express Buzz)

Inflation

Inflation figures for January and February of 2011 were revised from 8.2 per cent and 8.3 per cent to 9.5 per cent—a difference of 120 basis points, unheard of elsewhere. (ibid)

It’s like the Indian government is herding cats and that statistics department is trying to count them. It’s not easy, but it’s also essential. Why? Well, so I can I can learn how to make infographics, but also because the Indian government needs to plan policy, Indian businesses need to business and foreign investors need to invest. There’s big money involved now, and big gaps in the numbers.

Further Reading: The Hindu – Official statistics need to be reliable

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1 Comment »

2011-07-12 03:15:42

These days we hear a lot of unreliable stats from every corner.. not just from India!!

 
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