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India's GDP Mis-estimation: Likelihood, Magnitudes, Mechanisms, and Implications

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 354

Arvind Subramanian
June 2019

India changed its data sources and methodology for estimating real gross domestic product (GDP) for the period since 2011-12. This paper shows that this change has led to a significant overestimation of growth. Official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent. We estimate that actual growth may have been about 4.5 percent with a 95 percent confidence interval of 3.5 - 5.5 percent. The evidence, based on disaggregated data from India and cross-sectional/panel regressions, is robust. Lending further credence to the evidence, part of the overestimation can be related to a key methodological change, which affected the measurement of the formal manufacturing sector. These findings alter our understanding of India’s growth performance after the Global Financial Crisis, from spectacular to solid. Two important policy implications follow: the entire national income accounts estimation should be revisited, harnessing new opportunities created by the Goods and Services Tax to significantly improve it; and restoring growth should be the urgent priority for the new government.

Keywords: India, GDP growth, measurement
JEL Codes: O47, O53