| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Dec 9 Already battered by
corruption scandals, and less than a week after an embarrassing
policy U-turn, the Indian government admitted on Friday that it
had accidentally inflated this year's export figures by more
than $9 billion.
The cause was a glitch in the computer system that collates
the trade data, Trade Secretary Rahul Khullar told reporters.
Months of export and trade deficit data have had to be revised.
"How many people would come and tell you, 'OK we goofed'?
There was a mistake," Khullar said. "There is no shame in
admitting that there is something wrong," he added.
With export growth slower than first thought, the trade
deficit has now swelled by $9 billion, a worrying sign that
emerged on the same day that New Delhi revised down its annual
economic growth forecast to 7.5 percent from about 9 percent.
Growth rates for individual sectors were also distorted by
computer errors, Khullar said. For example, the performance of
the engineering goods sector had been exaggerated because
certain shipments had been incorrectly classified. Exports of
petroleum products, on the other hand, had been under-estimated.
The ministry had consistently emphasised that the data
released each month was provisional, and it had been open about
concerns that the figures were unreliable.
The admission came after months of speculation in business
newspapers about possible flaws in the data. In particular,
suspicions were aroused by a big jump in exports -- by as much
as 82 percent in July -- at a time when industrial growth and
other indicators were showing signs of an economic slowdown.
"Many of you have been commenting ... in the media about how
are exports doing so well if manufacturing is doing badly, and
the implicit understanding was that look, either the export
numbers are wrong, or the IIP (index of industrial
production)numbers are wrong, or both are wrong," Khullar said.
At a previous news conference, Khullar bristled at the
suggestion that the ministry was "cooking the books", to use his
Khullar also emphasised that while the figures were
inaccurate, the overall export trends portrayed were reliable.
Exports grew 33 percent between April and November, hitting $193
billion, according to the revised data.
"The big picture still remains that the exports are still
doing pretty damn well at 193," he said.
Exporters in Asia's third-largest economy enjoyed record
growth last year, rebounding from the global financial crisis as
demand from Europe and the United States revived.
This fiscal year had also started with strong double-digit
growth, according to the original figures.
But with the euro zone lurching from crisis to crisis, and a
sluggish U.S. economy, demand has once again been shaken. That
will put pressure on India's trade deficit, which could amount
to $155-160 billion for this fiscal year, Khullar said.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Ted Kerr)