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Citing free healthcare and education, govt says consumption hasn’t fallen

Asked about the Centre scrapping the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) report for 2017-18, he attributed the decision to “divergence” between the survey findings and “other administrative data sources” such as actual production of goods and services.

Dismissing reports of falling consumption expenditure as a “misconception”, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation Rao Inderjit Singh told the Rajya Sabha that consumption has increased.

Asked about the Centre scrapping the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) report for 2017-18, he attributed the decision to “divergence” between the survey findings and “other administrative data sources” such as actual production of goods and services. “Concerns were also raised about the ability and the sensitivity of the survey instrument to capture consumption of social services by households, especially on health, education, etc,” Singh added.

Elaborating on his point, the Minister cited the example of schemes like Ayushman Bharat.

“Ten crore households get Rs 5 lakh of medical aid freely per year. Apart from this, there is a right to free education, which has now been taken up by the government. So, people don’t spend on health, as they used to ... they don’t spend on education because now, it is free ... I stand by my statement, as I said earlier, that the consumption has not decreased.”

Responding to a separate question by TMC MP Santanu Sen, Singh told the Upper House that the decision to change the base year for calculating GDP was taken because of changes in the socio-economic environment. “Even the United Nation’s System of National Accounts says the base year should be periodically changed so as to get full rainbow colours of the economy into mapping, so that you get the proper estimate as to what is going on in the country’s GDP,” he said.

Singh added that changing of the base year for calculating GDP had happened on six earlier occasions. “Over the past 70 years in India, base year has been changed seven times, namely, in 1967, 1978, 1988, 1999, 2006, 2010, and thereafter, in 2015, when 2011-12 was computed as the base year.”