The government has decided not to release the consumer expenditure figures for financial year 2017-18 due to "data quality issues". The announcement came after media reports claimed that government had withheld consumer spending numbers due to its "adverse findings".
A Business Standard report claimed that the latest consumption expenditure survey, titled 'Key Indicators: Household Consumer Expenditure in India', reported drop in consumer spending for the first time since 1973 due to weak rural demand, indicating an increase in poverty in India in recent years. The report revealed that the average sum of money a person spent in a month dropped by 3.7 per cent to Rs 1,446 in FY18 (2017-18) from Rs 1,501 in FY12 (2011-12). The numbers had been adjusted for inflation, taking FY10 (2009-10) as the base year.
The consumer expenditure survey was carried out by the NSO between July 2017 and June 2018. The NSO report was approved to be released on June 19, 2019, but was withheld by the government agency.
"The Ministry has seen the media reports regarding consumer expenditure survey by the NSS stating that consumer spending is falling and the report has been withheld due to its 'adverse' findings. We would like to emphatically state that there is a rigorous procedure for vetting of data and reports which are produced through surveys. All such submissions which come to the Ministry are draft in nature and cannot be deemed to be the final report," the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) said in a statement on Friday.
MOSPI said that upon examination, the consumer expenditure findings showed significant increase in the divergence in levels of consumption pattern as well as direction of the change when compared to other administrative data sources like the actual production of goods and services.
In view of the data quality issues, the Ministry has decided not to release the Consumer Expenditure Survey results of 2017-2018, MOSPI further added. The ministry also said that it is separately examining the feasibility of conducting the next Consumer Expenditure Survey in 2020-2021 and 2021-22 after incorporating all data quality refinements in the procedure.
The results of Household Consumer Expenditure survey are also crucial for rebasing of the GDP and other macro-economic indicators.