Leaked NSSO data

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    3rd Dec, 2019

Context

Leaked findings from the 2017-18 Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) show that inflation-adjusted average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) declined by 3.7% in between 2011-12 and 2017-18. Government has debunked the report and decided not to release it siting ‘data quality issues’.

About

  • Inflation-adjusted average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) declined by 3.7% in the country between 2011-12 and 2017-18, first time in four decades.
  • The decline came because of an 8.8% decline in rural MPCE even as urban MPCE increased by 2%.
  • The CES is a flagship survey of the National Statistical Office (NSO), formerly known as the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), and is conducted every five years.
  • The CES, in addition to being a source of information on consumption spending and inequality, is also used extensively in other statistical processes including revision of base years for calculation of GDP and the composition of the inflation basket.
  • The 2017-18 CES was scheduled for release in June 2019. The previous CES was conducted in 2011-12.
  • MOSPI has withheld the report and is examining the feasibility of conducting the next CES in 2020-2021 and 2021-22 after incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process.
  • CES 2017-18 is the second major NSO report to run into controversy. Earlier publication of the NSSO Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for 2017-18 was also in controversy. 75th round (Consumer Expenditure), 76th round (Drinking water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Housing Conditions) survey results were also deemed controversial.
  • Leaked PLFS findings showed the unemployment rate in the country to be 6.1%, a four-decade high.
    • Data for 2017-18 shows Kerala has the most number of jobless people at 11.4 per cent. It is followed by Haryana (8.6 per cent), Assam (8.1 per cent) and Punjab (7.8 per cent).
    • At 3.3 per cent, Chhattisgarh had the least unemployment in 2017-18. Madhya Pradesh (4.5 per cent) and West Bengal (4.6 per cent) were at second and third places.
    • The joblessness rate rose the quickest in Gujarat — from 0.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 4.8 per cent in 2017-18.

Impact of not releasing CES report

  • The decision of not releasing CES 2017-18 will have important policy implications given its widespread use in calculating GDP and measuring inflation.
  • GDP base year revisions coincide with the period of CES surveys.
  • The base year for GDP and Index of Industrial Production (IIP) was due to be revised to 2017-18. The base year of Consumer Price Index (CPI), India’s benchmark inflation measure, was to be changed to 2018.
  • But by delaying the CES to 2020-21, the GDP base year revision will have to be postponed to at least 2025 because the survey results will not be available until 2023.
  • CES surveys are also essential in calculating the contribution of the informal sector to the GDP and deciding weight of various items in the CPI basket.

Concluding arguments

Previous CES rounds have also been subject to other kinds of controversy but never has data been withheld, and a report was junked. The best way to resolve such controversies is to release the data transparently and let everybody who is familiar with such numbers, look at it. Otherwise it gives the impression that only statistics which are acceptable will be released and it is dangerous for the credibility of our statistical system.

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