A government agency report has cast fresh doubts on India’s economic growth figures, in a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he seeks re-election in ongoing polls.
Data compiled by India’s National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) found that there were significant gaps in how the growth figures of Asia’s third-largest economy are calculated.
Modi regularly trumpets his economic credentials but the opposition Congress party says his government spins statistics to make their record on the economy look better than previous administrations.
The NSSO study found that more than one-third of companies included in a database used to calculate India’s economic growth were “closed, out of coverage, or non-traceable”.
“India’s GDP figures and data have been under scrutiny for sometime now internationally,” Ashutosh Datar, a Mumbai-based economist, told AFP.
“These new reports raise more questions about their credibility and accuracy,” he added.
The report was released last week but only came to light on Wednesday when it was reported by the Mint business daily.
Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have clashed over gross domestic product numbers since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led administration last year revised down growth figures for when Congress was in power.
The revision, based on a new way of calculating GDP that Modi’s regime introduced four years ago, saw average growth under Congress from 2005-2012 fall below that recorded by the BJP since it took over the government in 2014.
Modi’s government has defended the changes, saying they bring India more in line with how GDP is calculated in other major economies.
The new data is the second time this year that statistics released by a government agency have threatened to embarrass the government.
In January, data leaked from the statistics ministry showed India’s unemployment rate hitting a 45-year-high of 6.1 percent in 2017-18.
GDP growth slowed from 7.1 percent to 6.6 percent in the third quarter of the 2018-19 financial year, data released in February showed.
Economists say that the Indian economy needs to grow at least seven percent per annum to create jobs for the estimated one million people entering the labour market each month.
The results of India’s election are due on May 23.