China to trial tweak in gathering of fixed-asset investment data

Mainland statistics bureau to trial changes in calculating fixed asset investments

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 4:19am

The mainland's statistics bureau will test changes to the way it calculates investment in roads, factories and property, as part of efforts to improve the reliability of data.

The main aspects of the fixed-asset investment data trial will involve changing survey respondents to companies or legal entities from those based on particular projects, and altering investment calculations to be based on money spent rather than a project's progress, the chief of the National Bureau of Statistics, Ma Jiantang, said in a report yesterday.

The central government is struggling to win trust from investors and economists for its data, with exports and imports the latest indicators to be scrutinised amid concerns that fake invoices are inflating the numbers.

Li Keqiang, who became premier this year, said in 2007 that gross domestic product figures were "man-made" and "for reference only", according to a WikiLeaks cable published in 2010.

Lu Ting, head of Greater China economics at Bank of America in Hong Kong, said: "The biggest problem with China's investment data is double counting, which makes investment look bigger than it really is.

"The current statistics don't really give us an accurate measure of what's really going on in the economy for the purposes of macroeconomic policy."

Ma said at a recent meeting in Xian, Shaanxi province, that "we must reform and improve the current method of calculating fixed-asset investment to more accurately reflect the investment situation and provide better support" for macroeconomic controls, according to the report.

Xian is one of the four areas involved in the trial, along with Jincheng in Shanxi, Wuxi in Jiangsu and Qiandongnan autonomous prefecture in Guizhou, according to the statistics bureau's website. The report did not say when the trial would start or how long it would last.

The statistics bureau has been improving data methodology and collection to provide more reliable figures for policymakers.

In February last year, it started using a unified system to directly collect output, retail sales and investment data from 700,000 companies to boost accuracy and reduce manipulation by local authorities.