Saturday, October 07, 2017

Data and the economy

Three days ago, as the PM was delivering a speech on the economy, I tweeted this..
I stand by what I said. The RBI had only earlier that day revised the growth estimates for FY2018 to 6.7% (down from 7.3%) while the PM simply suggested that there was going to be 7.7% growth in the coming quarters which in my opinion was cherry picking of data and misleading.

Many complained on my timeline saying that I was wrong showing RBI data for the FY while the PM spoke of “coming quarters”, but they missed the larger point on the revision of FY18 numbers even as I insisted that the PM can’t cherry pick an upcoming quarter and that too, Q4. In my responses to some of the tweets, I erroneously mentioned that the coming quarters included Q1 and that Q4 was four quarters away, while I should have said Q2 (whose results are not yet out) and Q4 (results) is three quarters away. I promptly deleted that tweet when I realised the error. But my larger point holds.

The other point I made about the PM following bigoted people on Twitter is well documented by people such as in here.

As others - here, here and here have pointed out, the PM's speech presented a disingenuous argument about the state of the economy. After all, the last six quarters has shown a steady fall in growth numbers, which seems to have precipitated in the last three quarters in particular - a clear sign that the demonetisation decision has severely affected the economy, coupled with the problems that followed the hasty implementation of the GST.

There have been several articles in many outlets - including in The Hindu - that have pointed to the disingenuousness of the response of the government to findings about the quantum of demonetised cash returning to the bank and its implications, the state of the unorganised sector, the crashing of commodity prices due to disruptions in cash flow in the supply chains, the distress to farmers because of these price falls.. Then there are a number of stories about the problems faced by small traders and businessmen due to the GST's hasty implementation and trouble with the GSTN, unhappiness over excess bureaucratic work and so on. Some of this is of course teething troubles, but some of it is also due to the haste in which the implementation was done, which is reflected in the multiple changes suggested and made after its implementation.

The ill-effects of the slowdown of the economy is also reflected in the jobs market- where several reports, economists and even industry captains have suggested that there has been a deleterious effect. Other problems such as under-investment by the private sector and the low level of gross fiscal capital formation have persisted for many months now.

News outlets-including The Hindu - have carried out different views on how to handle this economic slowdown - some have spoken to the need for a fiscal stimulus to address primarily the infrastructure bottlenecks and ; some have suggested caution on the stimulus front and arguing for structural reforms instead; while others have said that the stimulus is still required despite structural weaknesses and disruptions in the supply side as this is the only way to address the lack of job growth.

In order to make an effective intervention, those in government must realise the reality that we are in (and which is a consequence of their own problematic decisions such as demonetisation). Those concerned about the economy must not buy into propaganda, which some in the government and among their supporters have indulged in, to paint a rosy picture when one does not exist.

Our job as journalists is to question the government and to keep it on its toes to mitigate the problems in the economy which are pretty much its own creation.

Personally, I have been part of a team in The Hindu that has come up with 100s of data points and graphics on various issues related to public policy, current affairs, political economy, sports, international issues, and so on.

We have as part of these graphics also pointed out to the mixed bag impact of demonetisation that looks at the aims of the exercise and whether they were at all reached, the declining gross fixed capital formation over the months, the slowdown in GDP growth over time, the gap between the changes in crude oil prices and retail petrol prices over time under the present regime (due to increases in excise duty) among various other charts. All of these are short data nuggets that add to the larger picture of what is to be done normatively by government and some of the steps recently taken such as the Rs 2 cut in excise duty address the issues pointed out.

As someone in the serious business of journalism, I will continue to pursue critical, objective and data driven journalism despite threats and accusations by right-wing trolls and wingnuts.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Testing Srini 123 Maps

Testing Srini 123 Multiple Maps. From Google.

This is a Test ...

This is a Test..

Test. Test. Test.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Jammu & Kashmir's near polarised verdict, explained in maps.

The assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir came up with very interesting results. The results could be summarised as having reflected the name of the state - representing Jammu AND Kashmir. In other words, it was as if the different regions of J&K had completely different political choices in mind and in essentially in effect.

I try to show that through three maps here.

The first one is a map of which party won which constituency (click on the individual constituencies to find out the winner/ runner up /and their respective voteshares). Obviously this is a constituency map prepared from Election Commission Data. (Shoutout to Datameet for helping source this from

Map 1: Who Won Where?

The second map is simply a map that represents the proportion of people adhering to the dominant religions in the state (saffron represents Hinduism, green represents Islam and mild blue - mostly Buddhism among others), across various tehsils in the state. Data for this map is sourced from Census 2001. (To my knowledge, religion wise breakup of the census 2011 for the state is as yet unavailable online. I assume that the proportions haven't really changed much since 2001 even if the actual numbers have risen as is to be expected).

Map 2: Composition of Jammu & Kashmir by Religion (Hindu/Muslim/Others)

A eyeball comparison of the two maps shows how polarised the election was. The BJP simply won heavily in all the constituencies that were Hindu majority by a large margin (in the Jammu region), whereas the parties based in the valley won most of the seats with a Muslim majority. The Congress party did quite well in Ladakh and Kargil, where the chunk of "other religions"- Buddhism in particular- were concentrated.

There is of course Kishtwar, Doda (and to some extent Bhaderwah) with most of its Tehsils having a higher proportion of Muslims among the population, which has been won by the BJP.

A more detailed map that shows how each party performed in each constituency (intensity map showing vote percentages of the four main parties across all constituencies) will elaborate how there is a clear regional divide in the political choices in the state. (Use dropdown at the bottom of the map to choose the respective parties)

Map 3: Vote Percentages of Respective Parties across Constituencies


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Comparing overseas batting records

India's abysmal performance in the recent series against England in that country has been universally panned. While India did manage to win one test and its bowlers performed creditably well (relatively) - running out of luck with dropped catches galore - it was the all round failure of the Indian batsmen that has caught the eye.

But there hasn't much too surprise with the Indian record in England recently. Indian batsmen have traditionally struggled outside the sub-continent as they have to encounter either faster pitches, better seaming and swing conditions or tracks that aren't flat enough. Indian pitches, on the other hand, are relatively more conducive to turn, include a number of flat tracks, and are more difficult for faster bowlers than is the case elsewhere. That is the commonly understood story.

Is there to empirically verify this using nifty data visualisation tools? There is!

We set out to find if Indian batsmen are relatively worse off than the average batsmen elsewhere on overseas tracks.

What we do here is to not just use simple averages to compare batsmen, but to use a measure which is called, "Runs over average batsmen" for our purposes.

It is not enough to simply compare averages of batsmen on overseas pitches as this measure will not compare a player from one era to another. That is because a batsman in a particular era could face better bowlers (or worse) as compared to another. There are also various rule changes/ cricketing conditions (one bouncer per over since the 1990s or no helmets prior to the mid-1970s for examples). It is therefore simply not accurate to term that X with an average of 50 in the 1990s and who has played just 25 innings overseas is better than Y with an average of 40 in the 1970s and who has played 60 innings.

Therefore, what we ought to do is find the average number of runs scored in a particular set of years in which a player played, and then calculate the difference between the total number of runs scored by the batsman and this average. This will be the "overall_value" of the batsman. It is an intuitive idea that is similar to what Australian economist Nicholas Rohde used in his controversial paper to study batting records across times.

To illustrate, take VVS Laxman. He has an overall average of 45.97. His overseas average is 42.64. He has played 225 innings (34 not outs) in his career. How does he compare to someone like Gundappa Viswanath, a similar stylist from the past? During VVS Laxman's career between 1997 and 2012, the average number of runs scored by batsmen was 33.1. In overseas tests, VVS Laxman added a difference of 8.92 (42.02 - 33.1) and therefore contributed 8.92 * 109 (such innings played) = 1040.1 runs as his overall value added as compared to the average batsman of his era. Similarly, Viswanath's overall value added was 312.39 runs over the average player of his era.
We do this exercise for all batsmen who have played test cricket from 1877 to the present. And present the results in a nifty graph as below. (Hover on each cell to see the data. Lighter colours depict a better value and darker a lower value for the batsmen. Click on the countries to view country specific data).


What we notice here is that there is not too much of a difference in the overall overseas records of Indian batsmen as compared to the best of the cricketing world. India does have a sizeable number of batsmen having above average "value added" runs in overseas tests as compared to the top team, Australia. Among Indian batsmen though (click on India to view more details for Indian batsmen alone), it is evident that the previous generation of batters- Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and to a lesser extent, V. Sehwag and S. Ganguly, constituted the best ever core India has had since it entered test cricket. Barring Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath in the earlier generation, no other batsman of any other era has a better overseas record than the aforementioned.

The current generation, meanwhile, has a long way to go to live upto the record of the previous one. Barring A. Rahane to some extent, most other Indian batsmen of the current team has been poor on overseas tours relative to the average batsman of this era.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The place of Rangana Herath

Rangana Herath just completed 250 wickets after taking a fantastic 9/127 against Pakistan in an ongoing test (as I write this) played at the SSC, Colombo. 

The event prompted me to check out whether this diminutive, unheralded, unsung and hardworking bowler stood among his tribe of spin bowlers. 

I did a simple data comparison. Extracted the Top 20 spin bowlers (by wickets taken) from Cricinfo's Statsguru, and then calculated a metric - "Bowl Index" (copied from this source). "Bowl Index" basically takes into account both bowling average and strike rate. 

Here's the formula: (runs conceded)^2/(balls bowled * wickets taken)

And then I normalised the formula to account for total innings bowled (Bowl Index * 1000/Total Innings Bowled). 

The resulting data is as below: 

A Graphical representation of the above data list is below:

Rangana Herath, thus far, ranks just below Bishen Singh Bedi and Clarrie Grimmet in the all-time list. Not bad at all for the Lankan spin lynch-pin whom no one expected to take over the giant shoes of Muthiah Muralitharan.