Fears about exports being shown on the higher side have come true with the government conceding today that it goofed up and inflated the numbers by USD 9 billion in the April-November period of the current fiscal.
"Every damn number for the last eight months has been revised...," Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said, conceding the crucial balance of trade deficit was also kept under - valued at USD 107 billion instead of USD 117 billion.
There was not only mis-classifications but also "error in double counting and all sorts of things" due to problems in the computer software which was recently upgraded, he said.
Having admitted mistakes, Khullar said that at least now "the notion that the government is deliberately cooking up and telling lies...Has got to stop. How many people will come and tell you that we have goofed up; there was a mistake. I have said it openly there is nothing to hide; there is no shame in admitting that there is something wrong".
However, he said that even after factoring in mistakes, the exports grew by 33.2 per cent between April-November.
The data goof-up was 4-5 per cent of the export billing and on an average it was inflated by USD 1 billion a month, Khullar said.
There were doubts on huge growth in exports which was even shown at 82 per cent in July at a time when the manufacturing was going down.
"Exports are still doing pretty damn well. (Earlier) you thought it (growth) would be 40-45 per cent, now it is down to 33 per cent (during April-November this fiscal)," he said.
For the eight month period, total exports have been calculated at USD 192.7 billion, while imports at USD 309.5 billion (growth of 30.2 per cent).
The fiscal-end trade gap may be USD 150-160 billion, he said.
Explaining the problem, Khullar said there was a misclassification which meant that goods belonging to one category were shown in a different classification.
As a result, exports of engineering goods alone got inflated by USD 15 billion, while those of petroleum and gems and jewellery were under-estimated by over USD 12 billion, he said.
"Because of ongoing controversy of how reliable the numbers are, we have gone back to the books. We did find mistakes. We have figured out that of the total export basket of USD 192.7 billion so far, there has been an error of about USD 9 billion and that now stand corrected," Khullar said.
There was no mistakes in the import data. Though the problem of trade deficit was serious, imports are expected to decline in the coming months.
Casting doubts over the export numbers, Kotak Mahindra had said in a recent study that the official export growth data was much higher than the figures reported by the country's top-500 listed companies.
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