A panel of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic advisors today pointed out that the former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian has admitted to being "unsure" of his conclusions about the country's growth figures being overestimated. It also said it would come up with a "point-to-point rebuttal" after a detailed examination of Dr Subramanian's research paper, as it is not desirable to "sensationalize what should be a proper academic debate from the point of view of preserving the independence and quality of India's statistical systems".
In his article on Tuesday's The Indian Express, Mr Subramanian had said the actual growth figures between 2011 and 2017 -- a period that spanned the UPA2 and the NDA1 governments -- were closer to 4.5 per cent and not 7 per cent.
He has also suggested that the GDP estimation be revisited by an independent task force comprising national and international experts, statisticians, macro-economists and policy users.
"These are certainly issues that Dr. Subramanian must certainly have raised while he was working as CEA, though by his own admission, he has taken time to understand India's growth numbers and is still unsure," the statement from PM Modi's Economic Advisory Council read.
The statement follows a clarification last evening from the Ministry of Statistics, which said estimates of the country's economic growth are based on "accepted procedures, methodologies and available data".
The Council argued that Dr. Subramanian, in his research, used "cross-country regressions" to estimate the GDP and said it was a "most unusual exercise".
"Using cross-country regressions to estimate GDP is a most unusual exercise, as is the suggestion that any country's GDP that is off the regression line must be questioned. The proxy indicators that he used can also be questioned. Nor does this exercise allow for GDP increases on the basis of productivity gains," the statement read.
"A country's GDP is in nominal terms and any exercise should be on the basis of nominal figures, not real growth rates," it added.
Mr Subramanian, who returned to academia after being the Chief Economic Adviser between 2014 and 2018, had said the changes did not originate from the politicians and were methodological -- "the substantive work was done by technocrats, and largely under the UPA-2 government".
But he also argued that "inaccurate statistics" on the economy's health dampen the impetus for reform.
Had it been known that India's GDP growth was actually 4.5 per cent, the urgency to act on the banking system or on agricultural challenges may have been greater, he said.