“Macroeconomic data can be painful, depending on what they uncover and how the Opposition parties spin the numbers. So, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its World Economic Report for October 2020 earlier this week, Indiau2019s fall from grace- in terms of GDP per capita at current prices- became a handy tool for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to fire yet another salvo at the economic mismanagement of the Modi government. u201cSolid achievement of 6 years of BJPu2019s hate-filled cultural nationalism: Bangladesh set to overtake India,u201d he wrote. The IMF has projected GDP per capita for India at current prices at $1876.53 for 2020 whereas the neighbouring and much smaller Bangladesh is expected to overtake us at $1887.97. The data goes on to show that India will regain its pre-eminent position among emerging Asian economies in 2021 but once again, in 2024 and 2025, Bangladesh will surge ahead of us. Historically, Bangladesh has been seen as a poorer neighbour, a country which owed its very existence to Indian efforts during the 1971 war with Pakistan. Bangladeshu2019s economy is roughly a tenth of India. It has been registering improvement in not just economic metrics but some other developmental indicators too over the last several years. The question troubling our policymakers is this: if a relatively poorer and much smaller economy like Bangladesh can ride the pandemic and emerge stronger, why has India been unable to fare better?. The IMF data shows that GDP growth for India in 2020 will be 10.3%, the third sharpest among major economies in percentage terms. China is expected to post 1.9% growth even during this pandemic year and the global economy could contract by 4.4%. In 2021, though, India is expected to again be the outlier but this time in a positive way, posting GDP growth of 8.8%, the highest among major world economies. Also read: India’s economy will shrink by a record 10.3%: IMF. u00a0. What is GDP per capita at current prices?. GDP per capita denotes prosperity of a nation. Lower the number, poorer the country. It measures the economic output per person and is calculated by dividing the GDP by its population. It is a way to measure national wealth though another metric can also be used: income per person. And when this metric is further qualified as being based on current prices, it means no base year has been used and all data has been collected at current prices.Why did India fall behind Bangladesh?. In just one year, Indiau2019s GDP per capita at current prices fell by more than 10%. Since we are talking of the pandemic year 2020 over 2019, this raises a question mark over the Modi governmentu2019s handling of the economy in this pandemic year, which has brought unprecedented difficulties for all countries. The IMF data show that while in 2020, India registered a marked decline in the GDP per capita metric, Bangladesh did not. In fact, GDP per capita grew by nearly 4% in the pandemic year for our neighbour. So we became poorer while Bangladesh continued to not just hold off further poverty but actually improved its score. In the next five years, both India and Bangladesh are projected to register significant GDP growth rates and IMF data show that in 2024 and the very next year, our GDP per capita figures will be neck and neck, with the neighbour marginally ahead. u00a0Why worry?. Indiau2019s former Chief Statistician Pronab Sen said that u201cIndia’s fall in GDP per capita is certainly a cause for concern. However, the increase in Bangladesh’s GDP per capita should not be a matter of any concern unless we as a nation suffer from an acute case of freudenschade (sorrow at the success of another).u00a0 Bangladesh is after all one of India’s best friends, not an enemy nation.u00a0 We should rejoice at their success.u201d The key lesson to be learnt here is that instead of trying to create a narrative around the myth of Indiau2019s rapid ascent economically, the government ought to look for policy measures to boost domestic demand while also working on enlarging Indiau2019s share of external trade. Also read: India must protect vulnerable people, support small enterprises: IMF. How India fared?. The government has countered the Oppositionu2019s attacks on GDP comparisons with Bangladesh by citing growth numbers under Prime Minister Modi and the second term of the UPA government, asserting that growth during Modi 1.0 was higher. But IMF data do not support this claim. In GDP per capita at current prices, growth during the UPA 2.0 was higher at 29.28% and the GDP per capita figure in 2013 was $1449.61 ($1121.25 in 20009). For the Modi governmentu2019s first full tenure, growth works out to just 27.4% with GDP per capita figure of $2005.86 in 2018 ($1573.88 in 2014).What to do now?. The government could look at three things:. 1. Better control over the spread of COVID-19 through policy interventions and local measures. 2. Offering a more meaningful stimulus than the packages offered so far to kickstart consumer demand. 3. Look to expand our external trade in sectors where we have strengths instead of harping exclusively on Atmnirbhar Bharat. Besides, we need to look towards economies which have managed to retain growth even during these pandemic times, for learnings. Take China. As per IMF data, prospects of China are much stronger than most other countries under u2018Emerging and developing market economiesu2019 subhead. China is projected to grow at 1.9% in 2020 and 8.2% in 2021. Time to get over this obsession with Bangladeshu2019s economy and look inwards.”