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Niti Aayog VC accepts Chidambaram's challenge and India's need for more reforms to grow over 8%

New Delhi: Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar Thursday accepted the challenge of former finance minister P Chidambaram for a debate on the revised GDP data which showed economic growth during the current NDA regime was better than that in the UPA rule.

"Hon. @PChidambaram_IN Ji,challenge accepted. Let's discuss & dissect back series data. I gave 3 hrs of detailed interview yesterday & it is somewhat disingenuous of you to say that I asked the media to not ask questions. Do give more coherent reasons for ur difficulty with new data," Kumar said in a tweet.

He was responding to Chidambaram who sought had a debate with Kumar over the new set of data.

"I wonder if Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar will agree to a debate the data than telling journalists that their questions are "undeserving of an answer," Chidambaram had tweeted.

Through more tweets, Kumar also stressed that Niti Aayog uses data extensively for making logical policy recommendations and the data is always based on assessment and quality check by eminent statisticians.

"Therefore, it was logical for @NITIAayog to provide the platform for its release. Pronab Sen would know that MOSPI & Yojana Bhavan worked closely together," he said.

Chidambaram had termed the revision of GDP data as a "hatchet job" by Niti Aayog and said it was time to windup the "utterly worthless body".

"Former Chief Statistician Pronab Sen is absolutely correct. Niti Aayog has nothing to do with tabulation of data," the former finance minister added.

Kumar, later, told PTI that at one point of time the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) was a department of the erstwhile Planning Commission.

He said Niti Aayog had provided platform to experts and statisticians to examine the GDP back-series) data.

"GDP back-series data is a technical thing, it has a huge macroeconomic impact, so we have done it in a more macroeconomic manner," the vice-chairman said and added he was deeply pained at people who politicised it for no reason at all.

On comments made by the former finance minister, Kumar said: "Chidambaram has done great disfavour to officers of CSO. CSO officials have done amzaningly technically detailed exercise".

In January 2015, the government moved to a new base year of 2011-12 from the earlier 2004-05 for national accounts. The base year of national accounts had been revised earlier in January 2010.

The CSO Wednesday released back-series data with 2011-12 as base year.

The new numbers show India's economic growth rate averaged 6.7 per cent during the Congress-led UPA regime as compared to 7.3 per cent under the present government. Previous numbers had put the average growth rate during the 10-year UPA rule at 7.75 per cent.

More reforms, low interest rates and greater availability of funds are needed to push India's economy to higher growth trajectory of over 8 per cent, Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar said Thursday.

India grew by 7.1 per cent in 2016-17 and 6.7 per cent in 2017-18.

"Breaching the 8 per cent growth ceiling is not easy, we have to try much harder and undertake the reforms at the level where it matters," he said at an event organised by Pahle India Foundation.

Kumar said that the two major constraints being faced by the investors are less availability of finance and high interest rates.

He observed that while the infaltion is hovering around 4 per cent, the marginal credit rate of banks is over 7 per cent.

"The cost of capital can not be equal to rate of returns, it (rate of returns) must be higher than cost of capital in the long run. So, this is where I think we need to have a very good look.

"...Otherwise, I am afraid despite the promise, growth rates may not be sustained," Kumar noted.

He also expressed displeasure at politicisation of release of back-series GDP data Wednesday at a joint press conference addressed by him and Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava.

Kumar said that the former Finance Minister P Chidambaram has done great disfavour to officers of CSO by criticising back-series GDP data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

"I am deeply pained at people who politicised it for no reason at all," he said.

The vice-chairman also pointed out that the government needs to invest more in the country's statistical system.

"The allocations to our statistical systems must increase many folds," he stressed.

Noting that invest climate and capacity utilisations are improving, Kumar said, "Domestic investments is going to drive the Indian economy".

He also stressed on need of improving competitiveness of India's production units by the government and industry working together.

"We have not done enough to modernise our agriculture," he noted.

Niti Aayog vice-chairman also announced that he is trying to put indicators of leading economic parameters, which will be more sophisticated than what India has so far.

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