Daily Editorial Analysis for 20th July 2023

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Why in the News

  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has formed a new Standing Committee on Statistics (SCoS) to advise on official data, including the household surveys carried out by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).

About SCOS

  • SCoS will replace a similar panel set up in December 2019 to advise on economic statistics.
  • It will be headed by India’s first Chief Statistician, Pronab Sen.
  • SCoS has broader mandate to help design surveys for all types of data.
  • It will also identify data gaps and conduct pilot surveys for new data sets.
  • The panel would be able to deliver quality guidance as it comprises 14 members in comparison to the 28-member economic data review panel which found it difficult to establish a coherent consensus.

Functioning of the SCoS

  • First task for the SCos would be to review the results of the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) by the NSSO.
  • The HCES is a key tool to revise indicators like the Consumer Price Index and the Gross Domestic Product, as well as to ascertain people’s living standards over time.
  • SCoS will have to sensitise users on the methods deployed and interpretational nuances they necessitate.

Recent Data Obfuscation

  • The government had decided to ignore the findings of the last quinquennial employment survey citing data quality issues.
  • Later, the government officials discredited the official statistical machinery’s methods. Saying it reflected elevated economic distress in households in the NSSO’s consumption and employment surveys.
  • Recently, the members of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister raised criticisms to overcome the adverse outcomes included in the latest HCES.

Way Forward

  • The decision to release data should be left to the independent National Statistical Commission constituted last year.
  • There is also a need to fill the vacancies currently present in the National Statistical Commission to make it an efficient and effective organisation.
  • Instead of discrediting or discouraging home grown data, there is a need to improve the credibility of the data and the organisation releasing it. This will better help to disseminate the governance outcomes among the larger public.
  • SCoS has to ability to bridge the trust deficit between the statistical systems and data users. That will eliminate the gaps present in the current data structure.
  • At the same time, the government needs to acknowledge and address some ground realities which have caused this vacuum in the statistical domain.

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