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BW Businessworld

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

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As if slowing growth rate, plunging markets, stuttering manufaacturing and stalled policy was not enough, now even exports growth is stumbling. Growth in India's exports plummeted to 4.2 per cent year-on-year as the shipments aggregated $22.3 billion in November in the wake of difficult global situation, while imports were up 29.1 per cent to $35.9 billion.

But this is not enough, there has been a goof-up in calculating export data as well. If you had wondered how exports grew 82 per cent in July when the manufacturing was going down, then your worst fears have come true. The government conceded on Friday that it goofed up and inflated the numbers by $9 billion in the April-November period of the current fiscal.

"Every damn number for the last eight months has been revised...," Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said, conceding the crucial balance of trade deficit was also kept under - valued at $107 billion instead of $117 billion.

There was not only mis-classifications but also "error in double counting and all sorts of things" due to problems in the computer software which was recently upgraded, he said.

However, he said that even after factoring in mistakes, the exports grew by 33.2 per cent between April-November.

The data goof-up was 4-5 per cent of the export billing and on an average it was inflated by $1 billion a month, Khullar said.

There were doubts on huge growth in exports which was even shown at 82 per cent in July at a time when the manufacturing was going down.

Since slowdown in growth has set in because of factors like Euro Zone crisis, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said on Friday that the total exports for the current fiscal would be in the range of $280 billion.

Earlier, the exports for 2011-12 were projected at $300 billion.

Though Khullar gave the export figure for November 2011 at $22.3 billion, he declined to give a comparative data of the same month last year stating "what is sacrosanct is not the monthly number; what is sacrosanct is overall picture".

There was no mistakes in the import data. Though the problem of trade deficit was serious, imports are expected to decline in the coming months.

Casting doubts over the export numbers, Kotak Mahindra had said in a recent study that the official export growth data was much higher than the figures reported by the country's top-500 listed companies.