The state of West Bengal has been facing a rough economic climate for several decades. The general feeling is that the new Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (popularly called Didi or sister) will affect a turnaround the fortunes. She is also the first non-Communist politician to run the eastern state in some 34 years. Before setting much desired economic growth targets for Bengal, she may have to sort out some past numbers, says SPR Research Fellow Sourjya Bhowmick.

The “Indian Public Finance Statistics” report, compiled by Dr.Kaushik Basu, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, aims to provide a comprehensive overview of budgetary transactions other centre and he state, trends in net domestic product of the states, among the other financial aspects of our country.

Missing Output

While going through the report particularly in the context of state-wise economic output, we discovered that net state domestic product, at constant prices, from the fiscal year 2000-2001 to 2009-2010, does not have the monetary output of West Bengal from the fiscal year 2004-2005 till the time this report was published. It’s the same situation when it comes to per capita net state domestic product, at constant as well as current prices.

The source for Dr Basu’s report is the “Directorate of Economics and Statistics” of the respective state Governments. Not surprisingly (perhaps), this data appears to be missing in other Finance Ministry documents too, at least in public domain. Nor can it be found in websites linked to the West Bengal Government like the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Bureau of Economics and Statistics. None of them provide any details, except to point to percentage growth achieved. Even the reports that are available on the Bengal Bureau of Economics website stop in 2005-06. Its almost as if data collection after this period ground to a halt.

We Don't Know

When SPR Foundation contacted the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Economics and Statistics, Government of West Bengal, he seemed surprised about the ‘missing data’, even to the point of clarifying that no such data was even asked for and every year the figures are presented in the annual budget. He agreed that there are ‘infrastructural issues’ that makes the data unavailable in public domain.

A RTI was duly filed by SPR seeking details about the missing data’s, from the Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs. We received a call from the Ministry saying that the data was not available with the Central Statistical Office at the time of the publication of the report. We also got a written reply few days back, which says, “The aforesaid data were not available from the Central Statistical Office when the compilation of data for the publication was done”.

Surprisingly, Kaushik Basu’s report mentions “Directorate of Economics and Statistics of various state governments” as its source. But in the RTI they say they failed to get the figures from Central Statistical Organisation, which falls under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India.

Interestingly, we accessed the figures from the website of the Central Statistical Organisation and they are all available for public viewing, even includes a sector wise break up.

Smaller states like Manipur, Nagaland are in the same league. State GDP figures are not available for the last two fiscal years. In the case of Manipur, no data since 2004-2005.

We also found a possible technical error. The reference figure for per capita net state GDP is in Rs Crores while presumably it should be in rupees. There seems to be a lack of co-ordination between the Centre and the State especially in the case of West Bengal. Maybe Didi can help.