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Economic Growth to be Measured under New System

Under growing criticism, China's statisticians will change the way they measure economic growth, starting next year.


The new system will see a preliminary growth estimate released 15 days after the end of each quarter, followed by a provisional figure 30 days later and a final number 30 days after that, said Li Deshui, director of the National Bureau of Statistics, yesterday.


The bureau will also survey the nation's industries every five years from 2004, Li said at a press conference held by the Information Office of the State Council.


Data from the construction industry, which accounts for 8 to 9 percent of gross domestic product, and black market activities, will also be included into the compilation of statistics for the first time, Li added.


"We are trying to improve the transparency and reliability of our data," he said. "We will announce this year's growth on January 20, rather than December 30."


The newly adopted periodical adjustments will make the figures more consistent, said Qu Hongbin, chief economist of HSBC in Hong Kong, yesterday.


"China used to announce the quarterly and annual figures quicker than any other country in the world. But the figures were inconsistent in some sectors," said Qu. "The statistics authorities made no revisions. Even when they did, they didn't make the results known to all."


During the past six months, economists from home and abroad have been debating whether or not China's economy is overheating.


The debate partly originated from the inconsistency of the current statistics, Qu noted.


"If the adjusted figure showed a 13 percent GDP growth, no one will doubt it's overheating," he said. "Accurate statistics may help policy-makers create efficient development plans."


China is probably understating its economic growth given how fast industrial production, power generation and tax revenue are rising, said Wu Jinglian, a senior researcher at the State Development Research Center last month. Factory production in the first nine months of 2003 rose 16.5 percent, power generation increased 15.6 percent and tax revenue grew more than a fifth, official figures showed.


The 31 provinces and municipalities on China's mainland each reported 2002 growth rates higher than the central government's official figure of 8 percent for the whole country, according to data from local statistics bureau.


"The bureau may have relied too much on the report forms, regardless of their accuracy. So garbage in, garbage out," Qu said.


(Shanghai Daily November 21, 2003)


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