As India entered the second day of its three-week national lockdown to fight the national lockdown, today the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a ₹1.70 lakh crore welfare package for the poor in the country to help them tide over the financial problems that they are expected to face due to the lockdown. But immediately after the package was announced, the usual suspects in media have gone into overtime to criticise, terming it as inadequate. In an effort to do that, India Today journalist Geeta Mohan posted a chart comparing India’s package with packages announced by some other countries in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, and concluded that India’s package is too less.
The chart prepared by the so-called ‘Data Intelligence Unit’ of the India Today group shows that today’s package of ₹1.7 lakh crore or USD 22.5 billion comes at mere $19 per capita, which is far less than the per capita number of packages announced by other countries, like $7,281 for Germany, $6,246 for the UK, $6,042 for the USA etc.
There are too many errors in the comparison made by the infamous Data Intelligence Unit of India Today, as there is no compatibility in the packages announced by various countries, and that’s why they are not directly comparable. While the most packages announced by other countries are comprehensive measures to help the economy to combat the losses incurred due to the Covid-19 outbreak, India’s package is not an economic package, but it is a welfare package targeted only a section of the society.
The welfare package of India includes subsidised food grain, direct cash transfers, enhancement of MNREGA wages, pensions, free cooking gas etc, apart from insurance for healthcare workers fighting the pandemic, and it has nothing for businesses and individuals like salaried class and traders. On the other hand, the $424 billion package announced by UK is a rescue package for businesses. It includes loans and grants for businesses, support for airlines, shops and the hospitality industry, apart from help for citizens like in mortgage payments.
Similarly, the $2 trillion package announced by the United States is also a massive comprehensive package which includes direct payment to individuals, suspension of student loans, hike in unemployment benefits, a $500 billion lending program for businesses hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, grant for airlines and airports, and a grant of $117 billion for hospitals. The $610 billion package of Germany is also a stimulus package for companies, and not just a welfare package for the poor.
Shockingly, while India Today’s ‘Data Intelligence Unit’ claims that France has announced a package of USD 335 billion, French media reports that the package is actually worth $50 billion (€45 billion), and this package also aims to help businesses and employees. The $335 billion is the bank guarantee that French govt has promised for companies to avail bank loans.
Similarly, the other countries mentioned by India Today have also announced massive packages to help revive their economies devasted by the Chinese virus, and they are not at all comparable with India’s scheme announced today, neither in absolute amounts, nor in per capita basis as they have done. Other countries have announced economic stimulus packages, which India is yet to do. India’s package targets only a specific section of the population, so to use the entire population of India to calculate the per capita is simply wrong.
There is another problem in direct comparison of India with other countries, which is Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). As the currencies of different countries have different purchasing powers, even similar packages of different countries need not be same on per capita basis.
It is important to note that while the European countries and the United States have been devasted by the Wuhan Coronavirus, the pandemic has been largely constrained in India. The virus has affected almost 700 people in India so far, and 13 persons have lost their lives. The numbers for other countries in India Today’s list is significantly higher than India. The total Coronavirus positive cases in the other eight countries is more than 3.66 lakhs, accounting for 74% of worldwide numbers, while the number of deaths is above 18000 in those countries, 81% of global deaths. Therefore, if India manages to contain the numbers, the requirement of an economic revival package may not be as big as the other countries.
Also, other countries announced their packages after they have already faced a massive number of coronavirus cases, while the numbers are still low in India, therefore it may be too early to announce an economic package for the industry in India. It is possible to govt will India will announce an economic revival package after evaluating the damages caused by the pandemic, and hence at present India’s response can’t be compared with other countries. This means that the calculation done by the ‘Data Intelligence Unit’ of India has made not just one, but several errors.
After several social media users had pointed out the errors in the chart, India Today’s news Director Rahul Kanwal posted a revised version of the chart, omitting the per capita column. But it still remains wrong, as the chart still compares India’s specific welfare scheme with other nations’ economic revival schemes.
There are so many things wrong about this chart that one can write a full thesis on it. This “Data Intelligence Unit” neither understands Data, nor has any Intelligence and certainly doesn’t understand Units. Indian journalists never surprise. https://t.co/mtOpmedbuy— Ram (@ramprasad_c) March 26, 2020
In conclusion, this tweet above by a Twitter user perfectly describes the chart prepared by the DIU unit.