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Gov't to improve credibility of economic statistics
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China's top statistics official vowed Friday to improve the quality and credibility of government statistics after foreign media voiced concerns about the authenticity of Chinese economic data.

"To keep (official statistics) true and credible is not only our duty but also our need to accept public supervision," said Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a statement on the NBS Website.

"Let's work together with all sides to continuously improve the quality and credibility of China's official data," said Ma, who was commenting on a foreign media article questioning the country's data gathering system.

The article, which was put on the NBS Website and told to be forwarded within the bureau, was originally written by the Shanghai-based freelancer Tom Orlik and posted on the Wall Street Journal's Website on April 10.

China is making progress in releasing expeditious, accurate and comprehensive economic figures but political motives could lead to problems such as overstating or understating the real economic situation, Orlik, who is also a former advisor to the British Treasury, said in the article.

While local officials could report lower-than-actual growth data to the NBS to seek state support funds amid the global financial crisis, there are also risks that the ways of calculation are changed to make the economy look better in the present downturn to meet government goals, Orlik wrote.

As the world's fastest expanding economy, China has been in the spotlight for the accuracy of its national economic data. The most recent figure drawing global attention was the decade-low 6.1 percent year-on-year growth in the first-quarter gross domestic product published Thursday.

China's economy grew by a seven-year low of 9 percent in 2008 as the global financial crisis bit into its exports. The government targets an 8 percent annual growth rate for this year.

China plans to revise its law on statistics this year, which is expected to impose severe penalties on officials who "intervene in government statistical work and manipulate or fabricate data", according to a draft law revision submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, last December.

The NPC has found serious fabrication when inspecting the implementation of the statistics law in recent years. Some local officials fabricated data to gain honors, material rewards or promotions.

Acts such as faking and making willful changes on statistics accounted for about 60 percent of all violations, Ma said at an NPC Standing Committee session last December.

(Xinhua News Agency April 18, 2009)

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