Amid escalating tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, spending under "public administration, defence and other services" fell sharply during April-June quarter of the current fiscal.
The growth in the gross value added (GVA) of public administration, defence and other services decelerated to Rs 3,74,656 crore in April-June period of FY21 compared to Rs 4,17,483 crore in the same quarter last year, showing a decline of 10.3 per cent, as per the press note on GDP estimates for June quarter this fiscal.
The government final consumption expenditure (GFCE), however, rose 16 per cent during this period on expected lines.
The sharp decline in "public administration, defence and other services" GVA surprised many economy watchers as public spending has been considered the only growth engine firing. Also, these two figures - GVA in public administration, defence and other services and GFCE - are contradictory.
"One of the things where I am not very comfortable with is sharp deceleration in public administration component especially when a lot of front-loading was happening," said N.R. Bhanumurthy, Vice-Chancellor of Bengaluru Dr BR Ambedkar School of Economics University.
"It is nothing to do with actual government behaviour. It may be something to do with methodology itself," he added.
M Govinda Rao, former Member of the PM's Advisory Council, said that public administration includes education, medical and other services also. Further during lockdown, hospitals were attending mostly COVID-19 patients, educational institutions were not working and several other public administrative functions were minimised.
"There were several allied services that contracted," he said.
The NSO considers monthly accounts of the Centre, expenditure maintained by Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and of state governments' expenditures maintained by Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) among other key data to estimate GDP and its various components.
Commenting on the decline in 'public administration, defence and other services', R Nagaraj, eminent economist and professor at Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), said that principally it should not happen in current times.
"But as government believes in fiscal conservatism, they may have cut certain expenditure but compensated with spending elsewhere. Where it is happening is difficult to say," Nagraj said.
As anticipated by most economists and research firms, India's GDP fell sharply in the first quarter of the current fiscal contracting 23.9 per cent. This is the worst performance among various countries like the UK, France and Germany hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Barring agriculture, all other sectors witnessed contraction with sharpest fall seen in construction sector, followed by 'trade, hotels, transport, communication and services related to broadcasting'.
The mass migration of workers from cities and supply chain disruptions badly affected most sectors. While situation has improved since May, following gradual opening of the economy, concerns around recovery persist.
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