Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan on Thursday raised a question mark over the way gross domestic product (GDP) is calculated in the country stating that “we get growth because people (are) moving into different areas”.
Value addition to the GDP is important when people move into newer areas of work rather than just a rise in the growth numbers, Rajan said while asserting the need to be careful in counting GDP numbers. Industry experts and economists had in the past expressed skepticism over the calculation of GDP numbers according to the new methodology.
“So, in that sense we have to be a little careful about how we count GDP because some time we get growth because people (are) moving into different areas. It is important that when they move into different areas they are actually doing something which is more value added,” Rajan said.
Speaking at the 13th convocation ceremony of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research in Mumbai, the RBI Governor gave an example of two neighbouring mothers who babysit each other’s child and get paid an equal salary. He said both the mothers getting paid a salary will be an addition to the GDP but may not be an exact reflection of an economic growth.
“If mother A went to look after the children of mother B and mother B went to look after the children of mother A, and they each paid each other an equal amount, GDP would go up by the sum of the two salaries. But would the economy be better off? Presumably, kids want their own mother rather than the neighbouring mother. And the economy would be worse off,” Rajan observed.
According to the government’s mid-year economic review, the economy is now expected to grow at 7-7.5 per cent in the fiscal year ending March 2016, down from an estimate of 8.1-8.5 per cent announced in the Budget in February. In January 2015, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the base year for computing national accounts which pushed up the economic growth rate for 2013-14 to 6.9 per cent, while earlier estimate on the basis of old series was 4.7 per cent. These changes follow a revision in the base for calculating national accounts to 2011-12 from 2004-05.
Pranab Bardhan, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who was the guest of honour at the event raised the point on the possibility of restructuring the current system of capital subsidies to wage subsidies through which the business sector could be actively involved in worker training programmes as well as identifying good workers. Supporting the issue, Rajan stated there is a need for incentivising employment rather than providing subisidies on capital. “Apart from direct tax benefits for investment, we also give subvention on loans in many situations which subsidises capital. We may not do similar things for labour. Clearly, trying to incentivise the employment which will add skills to labour is extremely important,” Rajan added.
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