Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When Journalism turns to mere PR: The story of ADB projecting 7% growth for Indian Economy

For me, the day began with reading two conflicting reports on Indian economy. The first one was a scathing indictment of the Finance Minister, by Yashwant Sinha a BJP member and former finance minister. He said, not speaking out anymore on the condition of Indian economy will amount to failing in his duty towards the nation. A notable point in his article was that the 5.7% of GDP growth rate achieved so far by Indian economy is equal to or less than 3.7% if we use the formula of Manmohan Singh’s period. That means, on an apple to apple comparison, Modi Govt has caused so much harm to the Indian economy and the result of an unbelievably low growth rate of 3.7% for the first half of this financial year.

The second was a news report on ADB's publication titled Asian Development Outlook 2017. As per the report, the ADB has reduced to the growth rate for Indian economy from an earlier projection of 7.4 % to 7%. Even though ADB is talking about a reduction of 0.4% in its projections, the news was presented as a great positive story. A 7% growth rate as against much lower rates suggested by many ‘anti-nationals’ including former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh and 'frustrated BJP leaders' like Swamy and Sinha! Here is ADB (with much more credibility) substantiating the greatness of Modi ji by saying India will grow at 7% in this financial year. What a slap on the face of all those who criticized Modi ji’s great financial initiatives like demonetization and half-baked GST!

Knowing the kind of journalism we have to live with in these days, I decided to check why ADB is giving out a projection that is so removed from the ground realities.  According to Govt’s own admission the first half of the financial year saw only a growth of 5.7%. If the growth for the whole year has to reach an average of 7%, Indian economy has to grow at a minimum of 8.3% for the second half! Given the admissions from Chief Economic Advisor and Finance Minister (forget all others, including SBI’s and various other doomsday reports) there is no way Indian economy can attain a growth of 8.3% in the remaining year.

So what is that the reports on ADB’s Asian Development Outlook 2017 was hiding from readers? Well, it was easy to find out. I just went to ADB site and downloaded the publication and looked at the basis for making such a projection. And there it was…The publication has clearly made a disclosure that the projections were made on the basis of data available up to 03 March 2017.

Now we all know, in the month of March, Modi and his followers were still in hope of the demonetization miracle. Since then, the reality has stuck even those who were pretending to be asleep. Adding to the problems was the introduction of GST. When lot of well-meaning people were cautioning about a hasty implementation, the daring Modi ji went ahead and implemented it without even an iota of worry as to how it will impact an economy which was already reeling under the impact of demonetization.

Anyone who comes across a prediction that says India will continue to grow at a decent 7% in this year, despite all these setbacks, should have immediately looked at the basis for such a prediction. If only they had looked, the reporters would have found that the prediction is based on such outdated data. Perhaps, the reporters merely wanted to gratify the Government and do their PR, rather than informing their readers? More so since reports after reports that speak anything against those in power are being taken down by the media houses!