Trinamool Congress leader and MP Derek O’Brien posted two graphs on Twitter on two days to prove that West Bengal was spending more on healthcare compared to the central government, and both graphs turned out to be wrong and misleading. In an effort to show that Mamata Banerjee led TMC government in West Bengal was ahead of the union government in terms of spending on healthcare, he posted a graph on 2nd November with the caption ‘India story versus Bengal story”, with the #healthcare hashtag.
The graph showed that while India had spent 1.28% on healthcare in 2017-18, Bengal had spent 4.01% in 2018-19. But surprisingly, not only the former quizmaster compared figures from different financial years, the numbers he was comparing were different too. For national spend on healthcare, he took the percentage in GDP, while for Bengal, he used the percentage of spend in total budget of the state.
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) November 2, 2019
Budget and GDP are different numbers, and if one has to compare the percentage spend on healthcare between two governments, the percentage of the same data has to be used. To use GDP for one and budget for the other is a completely wrong comparison, and it does not provide any meaningful insight.
After several people pointed out to O’Brien that he was comparing two different figures, today he posted another graph, this time by comparing the percentage of spend in healthcare in the budget for the year 2019-20. It shows that in the union budget for healthcare in 2018-19 was 2.31% of the today budget, while for Bengal the figure was 4.01%.
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) November 3, 2019
Although the second graph has no statistical anomaly like comparing two different data, it is still misleading and not correct to say that Bengal is spending more on healthcare than the central government.
This is because the union budget has several heads of expenditure which the states do not have. For example, defence is one of the biggest items of the union budget, which the states don’t have. Union budget also has expenditure under the heads of transfer to states, and construction of last scale infrastructures like national highways and important bridges. All these items occupy a significant portion of the union budget, which means that the shares of other items which are common with states become lower. But this does not mean that the actual spend on those areas are lower.
Another important thing to note is that healthcare is included in the state list in the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India. Although the union government spends money on healthcare, it is not included in the concurrent list. Which means the healthcare is the primary responsibility of the states. Therefore, to compare the percentage spend on healthcare by the centre with any state is meaningless.