National Policy on Statistics set to be unveiled soon

The credibility of India’s official stats is under strain following alleged shelving of unfavourable data.

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NEW DELHI: India will shortly unveil a National Policy on Official Statistics in the wake of various controversies related to the alleged suppression of bad news, undermining the credibility of government data, said people with knowledge of the matter.

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has begun work on a cabinet note on the policy that seeks to provide “timely and credible social and economic data,” one of the persons said.

“The policy will be formulated and notified, enabling the ministry to spearhead the reform processes in the national statistical system,” the official said.


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The policy seeks to create synergy between the Centre and the states in statistical matters besides promoting an ecosystem for “informed debate” on various social and economic issues affecting people’s lives.

The ministry began drafting the policy in June, shelving a proposal to set up a National Statistical Development Council, an independent authority headed by the Prime Minister that would supersede the National Statistical Commission (NSC). The latter is the apex body on statistical matters.

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It had also proposed to make the chief statistician a permanent member of the NSC through the redrafted policy for improved coordination between the NSC and the government.

The ministry also plans to set up a taskforce to prepare a roadmap for putting the policy in practice.

The government is looking to address data quality issues with regard to various surveys and vetting the information collected apart from increasing the sample size of surveys to improve accuracy.

The credibility of India’s official data has come under strain following last month’s leak of the draft Household Consumer Expenditure report, which showed a decline in spending in rural India in FY18, and was later shelved.

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Earlier this year, the government withheld the Periodic Labour Force Survey report that showed unemployment sharply rising to 6.1% in FY18 compared with 2.2% in FY12. Issues were also raised about GDP data based on the new series with economists citing quality issues.

Former NSC members had accused the government of sidelining the commission and interfering with its working.
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