Economy

Govt admits goof-up in export data; inflated by $9 b in April-Oct

Arun S New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on December 09, 2011

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The Government conceded on Friday that errors had occurred in the country's export data. The Commerce Ministry said software problems and data entry errors resulted in numbers being inflated by around $9 billion for April-October this fiscal.

The official response follows reports questioning the credibility of the data wondering how exports were soaring at a time when manufacturing is down. “Because of this ongoing controversy about how reliable the numbers are, we went back to the books. We did find misclassification and errors, including double counting. This inflated exports by about $9.4 billion, which means a margin of error of about 4-5 per cent. This is a goof-up and there is no harm conceding a mistake. But, it now stands rectified,” the Commerce Secretary, Dr Rahul Khullar, told reporters.

Also, the computer software (Icegate) that is being used to transfer data electronically had crashed for some time and was upgraded later, leading to problems in data entry, he said.

He, however, said that exports of $192.7 billion during April-November is a correct one. “(With imports of $309.5 billion) this means the balance of trade is $116.8 billion. On an earlier uncorrected basis, the trade deficit would have been $107.5 billion and that represents the $9 billion extra,” he said.

Explaining the puzzle in the export numbers, he said there has been an over-estimation of engineering exports by $15 billion. October numbers showed that engineering exports recorded 80 per cent growth, whereas in November, when the actual numbers came in, it is down to a modest 22-23 per cent.

Under estimation

Also, there was an under-estimation of petroleum and gems and jewellery exports by $12 billion. In October, petroleum product exports were showing only 50 per cent growth, while actual growth was over 60 per cent. Similarly, gems and jewellery exports were showing only 13 per cent growth in October, while the actual was over 56 per cent. Besides, there were minor errors in other 500-odd categories.

Dr Khullar maintained that the big picture on trends remains intact, adding that there is no change in the import data as those numbers are reliable.

“It is not as if you have a balance of payment crisis because you didn't know the (export) numbers were wrong. But yes, the trade deficit is a little worse now than what was expected,” he said. “Even if the accounting or statistical system collapses, the RBI (which has a cross-check mechanism) would have raised alarm bells if the reserves are lesser. The fact that there was no dramatic drawdown on the reserves is a good indication that these (export) numbers were not so far off the mark,” he added.

arun.s@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 09, 2011
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