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It is very nearly a case of what is called GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.
The fuss This is mainly because except for perhaps a dozen economists and statisticians – same as the vidvaans of the Gupta period – everyone else knows this is a sterile debate.
It is exactly the Jewish theological question about whether electricity is fire and if it is, whether an elevator can be used on the sabbath. Mr Subramanian says GDP grew at best at the rate of 4-5 per cent between 2011-2017.
Thus, if you spent Rs 100 on inputs and sold the output at Rs 120, value addition is Rs 20.
If the next year you spent only Rs 95 and sold at the same price, the growth rate will go up.
But it is the claim, and not the exhortation, that has caught the world’s attention. Not surprisingly India’s economists are honking like startled geese.
It is like when the American singer Madonna when she posed in the nude. At the eye of the storm is not the issue but Mr Subramanian.
The second is growth in productivity, and the third is improvement in product quality.
What Arvind has done is that the indicators he has used are all volume indicators, and having done that, he has said they were very strongly correlated prior to 2011 but not after that period.”He went to pick many more technical holes in Mr Subramanian’s paper.
The method was tarka-vitarka – argument and counter-argument – which had but one purpose: vanquishing your rival’s point of view by debate.”He went on to explain how the Brahmins, who had a near-complete monopoly on knowledge, busied themselves with increasingly esoteric questions about the cosmos, epistemology, teleology and suchlike.
“It was useless knowledge from society’s point of view and left us in a weakened state.”I am recalling this conversation -- which I have summarised hugely -- because of the research paper the former Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry, Arvind Subramanian, has written for Harvard University.