Niti Aayog overstating digital payments growth?

Satyanarayan Iyer of ToI has an article showing how Niti Aayog is overstating rise in digital payments in India since demonetisation.

In its publication Niti Aayog says payments have risen by 23 times!

Volume of all digital transactions increased by about 23 times with 63,80,000 digital transactions for a value ofRs. 2425 crore in March 2017 compared to 2,80,000 digital transactions worth Rs.101 crore  till November 2016.

Iyer points to RBI data saying the data shows all digital transactions have gone by 1.43 times.

However, an analysis of the RBI data on digital transaction volume and value in March 2017 (latest available data) as against that of October 2016 shows that the overall volume had gone up just 1.43 times (see table). TOI spoke to Anna Roy, adviser (DAMD), Niti Aayog, who was in charge of preparing the statement, about “the 23 times’ gain”. She said the numbers were provided to them by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). When told that the numbers were too high and the data showed that actual gains were much lower, she replied, “I agree with you”.

Going by the RBI data, the 23 times’ increase is only for Unified Payments Interface (UPI) volume and value gain and not for “all digital transactions” as stated. For perspective, UPI volume in March 2017 was just 0.69% of overall digital volumes and 0.015% of overall digital transactions value.

“The numbers have been reconciled and double-checked by our IT department,” said Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, on Saturday. On Monday, one of his team members said they will look into the data and it could have been a “typographical error,” but said the intention was to point out that consumer-facing digital numbers have grown.

While the numbers have grown in the days since demonetisation, the overall growth is much lower than stated even for only consumer-facing transactions like card usage at PoS terminals and digital wallet usage, among others.

The data is fairly easy to check and indeed shows the error. One does not know where to look when such elementary mistakes are made by leading economics policy body of the country.

It is really sad when policy institutions release reports just to please the current government. These numbers have been released and using the several channels have been told to the people as well. The impression has been created and a TOI article can barely change the perception. Even a corrected report will not really be released with similar fanfare .

Instead of sounding caution which is one of the main jobs, it is amazing to see the main Policy body to just blindly move to digitisation. Its disconnect with Indian reality is alarming. One has been reading highly arrogant statements made by its heads which does not provide any comfort either.

These were the very mistakes the earlier version of Niti Aayog also made with respect to the previous government.We were told the new version would be different and would play just an advisory role and not get into politics. But sadly this has not been the case.


One Response to “Niti Aayog overstating digital payments growth?”

  1. Anil Says:

    Economics is fast becoming Theology. Belief matter more than facts. And numbers………well you can beat the data to show what you want it to say…………….

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