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May 20, 2002 | 1150 IST
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New plan for statistical system sent to World Bank

Mamata Singh

The government is yet to put together a programme for improving the country's statistical system, though discussion on the subject has been on for almost five years now.

The ministry of statistics and programme implementation has sent a revised proposal to the World Bank to put in place a fund for upgradation of India's statistical system.

The current proposal is substantially different from the original one discussed in 1999.

"A greater level of assistance is envisaged in the current proposal for strengthening the state statistical system," said officials with the World Bank. Consultations are under way between the ministry and various state departments of economics and statistics to assess the requirements and specific type of assistance needed for the purpose, they added.

Moreover, in the revised proposal, the ministry of statistics and programme implementation has taken into consideration the recommendations made by the National Statistical Commission, headed by C Rangarajan.

The commission was appointed in 2000 to examine the statistical system in India and to identify its deficiencies and weaknesses.

The current proposal includes significant revisions from its earlier form. Also, details pertaining to a number of new components still need to be worked out.

Hence, preparation for the new project is essentially starting from scratch and will take some time, officials from the World Bank pointed out.

The proposal, first negotiated in 1999, was put on hold by the government of India. The approximately Rs 9.5 billion programme was expected to be a major turning point for the country's statistical system.

It was to help improve the reliability, timeliness and coverage of the data collection, processing, dissemination and transmission systems.

Of the total amount, Rs 8 billion was to come from the World Bank, while the Indian government was to put in the balance 15 per cent.

When the department of statistics first tried to move the papers for clearance from the Public Investment Board, the then minister for statistics refused to clear it, stating it was not possible to give clearance to expand one particular department at a time when the government was focusing on downsizing itself.

It was then decided to wait for the recommendations of the National Statistical Commission, which was set up to suggest measures to improve the country's statistical system. The commission submitted its report in September 2001.

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