The average growth rate of the gross domestic product, or GDP, “over the entire term of our government has been the highest of any Indian government since 1991,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the inauguration ceremony of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit’s ninth edition, on 19 January. The prime minister also noted that India is presently one of the top ten global destinations for foreign direct investments. He claimed that under his leadership “there has been an unprecedented focus on manufacturing and infrastructure.” These statements, like several others in his speech, had one thing in common—they were either demonstrably false or obscured the full truth.
Vibrant Gujarat is Modi’s flagship biennial international investors’ summit—he launched it during his tenure as the state’s chief minister—at which he makes his pitch to bring businesses into his home state. This year, with just months to go for the general elections, Modi seemed keen to boast of the achievements under his regime at the centre.
But the prime minister appeared to take some liberties in his efforts to do so. For instance, while claiming that his leadership has led to the highest average GDP growth rate, he neglected to mention that the metric to evaluate the GDP was modified after his own government’s data suggested that GDP growth had been higher under the United Progressive Alliance government than under Modi. For several years, GDP growth was calculated against the GDP in the financial year 2004–05. In July 2018, a committee set up under the National Statistical Commission—a body constituted under the aegis of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Information—submitted a report that calculated previous GDP growth rates against a more recent base year, the financial year 2011–12. According to the report, the average growth rate under the UPA regime stood at 7.75 percent, while the rate under the first four years of the Modi regime was 7.35 percent. Four months later, the Niti Aayog issued revised GDP data for financial years between 2005 and 2012, projecting the UPA growth rate at 6.7 percent; transforming the rate under Modi to the highest growth rate in almost three decades.
The prime minister’s claim about FDI in India obscured relevant aspects of the issue as well. Foreign investments shot up when Modi came to power, recording a growth percentage of 27 percent in 2014–15 and 29 percent in 2015–16. But in the last financial year, India’s FDI growth has fallen to a five-year low of just 3 percent. Moreover, according to the World Bank, India’s FDI as a percentage of its GDP was at its highest in 2008, at 3.65 percent, under the Manmohan Singh-led government, and has not climbed past 2.09 percent under Modi.