Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Did poverty levels in India rise in 2008?

The top story in today's Times of India suggests there are more Indians living in poverty today than there were two years ago. The headline and sub-heading read:
Did India escape impact of global slump? No, its poor grew by 34 mn
2.1% Decline In GDP Led To 2.8% Rise In Poverty
Both the 'decline in GDP' and the 'rise in poverty', however, are misreadings of a United Nations study. What fell was not India's GDP, but its rate of growth, from an average of 8.8% per year between 2004 and 2007 to 6.7% in 2008. A growth rate of 6.7%, nevertheless, is high if compared with longer term GDP growth rates in India. As such, it should not have resulted in an increase in poverty levels.
The actual statement from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is that 47 million more people became poor or remained in poverty (italics mine) globally than would have been the case if the growth rates of 2004 to 2007 had been maintained. Of these 47 million, 34 million were stated to be in India, according to a reply to a request by the Times of India for a nation-wise breakdown in numbers.
Firstly, 34 million Indians out of a worldwide figure of 47 million seems far too high, I'd like to see the basis of those stats. More importantly, it is the 'remained in poverty' figure that's crucial to India. Nowhere does the report indicate that there are more poor in India as a result of the 2008 meltdown. It's true that many people who would have been raised above the poverty line if an 8.8% growth rate had been maintained stayed below it because of the drop to 6.7% GDP growth. But to suggest, even in a headline, that poverty increased in India even as the nation posted a 6.7% rise in real GDP is absurd, and the Times is misleading readers by saying so.


adrian mckinty said...


I'm sure this is a mistake. I read that Danny Boyle, the director of Slum Dog Millionaire, spent his personal fortune saving India's poor, so the figures must have gone down.

In a related story I'm sure you are going to read soon that James Cameron is going to spend his record gains from Avatar saving threatened indigenous peoples across the globe.

Girish Shahane said...

Along with the efforts of your dear friend Bono, this pretty much guarantees global salvation.

globalbabble said...

Do you think, the journalists at Times of India are stupid or is there an insidious, evil Jain-bros-hatched plan behind this misrepresentation?

Girish Shahane said...

Global, the difference between fall in GDP and fall in growth rate is frequently misrepresented in the media, not just in the Times. As for poverty levels, well, some journo saw a sensational headline, being accurate would've deprived it of its sensationalism (and its front page potential), don't believe the Jains had much to do with it.

Salil said...

Innumeracy is worse as a problem in journalism than illiteracy. Carl Bialik's columns in WSJ show that the problem is not restricted to journalism.

And Adrian, I thought Cameron is using the profits to save the indigenous people in outer space - consistency in analogy would be nice, but if we leave it to Bono, maybe not... maybe Geldof would do better, shouting at everyone...

VV said...

Cameron might actually be getting to save Orissa!
"Apparently the tribes in Orissa have asked James Cameron, the director of record-winning film Avatar for his assistance in stopping Vedanta’s operations.
UK-based company is destroying the environment of indigenous people in Orissa."