Fact check: Trump hypes India modernization, US economy

Hope Yen and Emily Schmall
Associated Press

Washington – President Donald Trump overstated India’s progress in achieving universal access to electricity, skirted facts about sanitation and exaggerated his own administration’s record as part of a 36-hour visit to India to reaffirm ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A look at some of his claims during a mega-rally Monday in Ahmedabad:

U.S. President Donald Trump, applauds performing artists as he arrives at the airport with first lady Melania Trump to visit the Taj Mahal, the 17th century monument to love in Agra, India, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.

TRUMP: “Under Prime Minister Modi, for the first time in history, every village in India now has access to electricity.”

THE FACTS: His suggestion that all of India now has access to electricity is false. The government of India says a village is electrified if at least 10% of homes and public buildings have electricity. According to the World Bank, about 99 million people, or 7% of India’s population, still live in the dark.


TRUMP: “Six hundred million more people have access to basic sanitation.”

THE FACTS: He’s skirting critical facts.

It’s true that India has built more than 110 million new toilets since Modi’s government came to power in 2014, leading to increased access to basic sanitation. But implementation has been spotty in a country where venturing into the fields to defecate has been widespread and accepted.

More than 60% of India’s 1.3 billion people live in more than 600,000 villages. Poor villagers who couldn’t build toilets in their homes chose open fields, forests, ditches and other open spaces for defecation – and that cultural practice has been slow to change.

A 2018 study conducted by the non-profit Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, for instance, found 44% of the rural population across four large states still defecate in the open. Nearly one-quarter of people in households with toilets also continued to defecate in the open, a figure unchanged from 2014, according to the study.

After becoming India’s prime minister, Modi promised to make India an open-defecation free country. He’s acknowledged the task is not over yet.

The World Bank has previously said about 1 in every 10 deaths in India is linked to poor sanitation.


TRUMP: “Our economy is booming like never before. … We have the greatest economy ever in the history of the United States.”

THE FACTS: His persistent depiction of the U.S. economy as the greatest ever is false.

In the late 1990s, growth topped 4% for four straight years, a level it has not reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth reached 7.2% in 1984. The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 – the same pace it reached in 2015 under Obama – and hasn’t hit historically high growth rates.

The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low of 3.6%, but the proportion of Americans with a job was higher in the late 1990s. Wages were rising at a faster pace back then, too.

This much is true: The Obama-Trump years have yielded the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. But not the greatest.


TRUMP: “Our military has been completely rebuilt.”

THE FACTS: No, the U.S. military hasn’t.

The Trump administration has accelerated a sharp buildup in U.S. defense spending, but it will take years for freshly ordered tanks, planes and other weapons to be built, delivered and put to use.

The Air Force’s Minuteman 3 missiles, for instance, a key part of the U.S. nuclear force, have been operating since the early 1970s, and modernization started under the Obama administration. They are due to be replaced with a new version, but not until later this decade.


Schmall reported from New Delhi. AP Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber contributed to this report.