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Of cabbages and kings, onions and GDP

GDP runs the risk of turning into numbers that make the mind number and number.

ET Bureau|
Dec 07, 2019, 09.25 AM IST
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Agencies
GDP is an abbreviation that, depending on one’s point of view, can be read backwards or forwards, either as Pretty Darn Good or as Government Devised Propaganda.
GDP is an abbreviation that, depending on one’s point of view, can be read backwards or forwards, either as Pretty Darn Good or as Government Devised Propaganda.
The old chestnut that there are lies, damn lies and statistics, is never more true than in that twilight zone know as Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, an arcane area where ‘creative accountancy’ flourishes at its creative best. Even as the government and the Opposition cite sundry sources to support their contending claims as to what the real GDP numbers are, and the finance minister resolutely rebuts charges that the economy is in reverse gear and in recessionary mode, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has dismissed this war of words as a shambolic skirmish making much to-do about nothing.

Claiming to quote eminent economists — including Amartya Sen, who has been a critic of the NDA government’s economic policies — the MP from Jharkhand described GDP as being “irrelevant” to India and should not be seen as “Bible, Ramayana and Mahabharat”. Adding that sustainable development and the “happiness quotient” — a matrix adopted by some countries, including Bhutan — were the real measures of progress, he foresaw a future in which GDP will not “have much use”. For the time being, however, all is grist that comes to the GDP mill, including the stratospheric price of the once-humble onion that, if taken into account, could significantly elevate the productive wealth of the nation even as it leaves in tears the hapless consumer of the item in question. In short, GDP is an abbreviation that, depending on one’s point of view, can be read backwards or forwards, either as Pretty Darn Good or as Government Devised Propaganda.

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