Nairobi has dominantly enjoyed foreign direct investments across all real estate segments in the past decade but that now appears to be fast ebbing away.

What do you think about ‘The Real Growth Story’ article by Livemint, where Manmohan Singh’s term has fared better than Modi’s term in 11 out of 15 economic indicators?

The article suffers from two key issues — selectiveness and obfuscation.


The list of indicators selected by the author is not exhaustive and one can argue that they have been selected purely because they conform to the author’s intended outcome — i.e. the UPA2 had a better economic track record as compared to the current government.

The list of indicator mentioned is:

  1. Domestic 2-wheeler sales
  2. Domestic car sales
  3. Domestic tractor sales
  4. Retail loan growth
  5. Airline traffic
  6. Passenger revenue of Indian Railways
  7. Domestic commercial vehicle sales
  8. Cement production
  9. Steel consumption
  10. Income Tax growth
  11. Corporate Tax growth
  12. Petroleum consumption
  13. Inflation
  14. Savings
  15. Road construction

The author states at the start that they do not believe the GDP figures are correct, hence that omission is justified.

However, a cursory glance at the list tells us a few things:

  • Multiple indicators that are correlated — 1, 2, 3, and 7 are closely correlated since they are all automobiles
    • So are 10 and 11
  • Cement production is used as an indicator, but for steel the consumption is used
  • Airline traffic #s are used, but for Indian railways it is the passenger revenue
  • Notable omissions:
    • Railways freight revenue
    • All fiscal indicators
    • All investment indicators, namely FDI/FII
    • All banking indicators — people with bank accounts, transaction volume, credit card growth etc
    • The omission of the services industry which contributes more than half of Indian GDP
    • Real estate indicators
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Interest rates
    • Currency movement

A. FDI/FII

The total foreign inflow to India declined from $22 bn to $16 bn from 2009 to 2014.[1]

From 2014 to 2018, they bounced back from $16 bn to $37 bn.[2]

B. Currency

On May 1, 2009, USDINR was trading at ~50.[3]

On Apr 30, 2014, it was at 62, having fallen by about 24%.

Currently, it is at about 69, implying a devaluation of ~11%. Over the course of last 3 years, starting Feb 2016, the net change has been zero.

C. Interest Rates

In 2010, the RBI benchmark rate was 7%. It subsequently rose to around 8% in 2014. It is now at 6%. [4]

D. The startup ecosystem

2018 was an amazing year for the Indian startup ecosystem. A report by Inc42[5] shows that from 2014 to 2018, both the # of startup deals in India and total funding received has more than doubled.

(From 348 deals in 2014 amounting to $5.3 bn to 743 deals in 2018 worth $11 bn).

Couple this with a 2015 Yourstory piece[6] which stated that from 2010 to 2014, total funding was $18 bn.

From 2014–18, as seen in the graph, total funding was $44bn, 150% higher than the previous 5 years.

And you can probably do this for the rest.


Coming to the point of obfuscation, where is all the underlying data for the figures the author has presented?

For example, the Direct tax data can be found on the Income Tax website[7]

For UPA2, Personal Income Tax grew from Rs. 1.2 Lakh Crore (2008–09) to 2.43 Lakh Crore (2013–14). This represents a 100% increase, or 14.8% CAGR for the 5-year period. Not 17.35% as stated in the article.

For NDA, it grew from Rs. 2.4 Lakh Crore to Rs 4.2 Lakh Crore over 4 years, a 75% increase over 4 years, or 15% CAGR.

This is despite a larger tax base.

From 2003–04 to 2008–09, the first UPA tenure, the growth was from Rs 0.4 Lakh Crore to Rs. 1.2 Lakh Crore, a 200% increase because of the smaller base.

Corporate tax during UPA2 grew from Rs. 2.1 Lakh Crore to Rs 3.9 Lakh Crore. 85% increase or 13.85% per annum.

The author also conveniently ignored the Indirect Tax collection[8] .

  • Indirect tax in 2008–09: Rs 2.7 Lakh Crore
  • 2013–14: Rs 4.95 Lakh Crore
  • 2018–19: Rs. 11.7 Lakh Crore[9]

So from 2008–09, it grew by 83%, but since then it has grown by 138%.

The 5-year CAGR are respectively 12.8% and 18.9%.


All in all, this is just another selective agenda piece.

Footnotes

[1] Reserve Bank of India

[2] Reserve Bank of India

[3] USD INR Chart – Dollar to Rupee Rate — TradingView — India

[4] India Interest Rate

[5] 2018 A Landmark Year For Tech Startups With $11 Bn In Funding, 743 Deals And 11 Indian Unicorns

[6] Investors pump $9 billion funding into Indian startups in 2015 via 1005 deals

[7] https://www.incometaxindia.gov.i…

[8] https://www.incometaxindia.gov.i…

[9] GST collection hits record high of  ₹1.06 trillion in March