Beijing seeks to close gap in GDP figures

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 3:42am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 12:56pm

The mainland will unify the way it calculates provincial economic output to help close a gap with national figures, its chief statistician said yesterday, amid scepticism about the reliability of mainland data.

The difference between gross domestic product reported in aggregate by the mainland's 31 provinces in 2011 and the national level, for instance, showed a huge discrepancy, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Turkey.

"We will promote statistical reform and innovation this year to actively and steadily push forward unified accounting for regional GDP," said Ma Jiantang, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics.

The bureau would draw up plans for introducing the unified statistical standards on local GDP this year, as it conducted the latest economic census, Ma said in remarks published on the central government website.

It would revise national and local GDP data for 2013 and previous years to make them consistent and strictly calculate national and local GDP and growth rates for each quarter this year, he said.

The combined economic output of the mainland's provinces has long exceeded that at the national level, compiled by the bureau, raising suspicion that some growth-obsessed local officials have cooked the books.

Mainland leaders have recently set new standards for local officials, stressing that their performance cannot be simply based on regional growth rates but should include resource and environmental costs, debt levels and work safety.

The mainland's annual economic growth likely slowed a touch in the fourth quarter of last year, a poll showed, confirming market views that the world's second-largest economy lost some vigour at the end of the year as Beijing shifted its focus to reforms.

The median forecast of 24 economists polled showed GDP probably grew 7.6 per cent between October and December from a year earlier, slower than 7.8 per cent in the third quarter and likely to put last year's GDP on track for the weakest showing in 14 years.

Beijing has said it will accept slower growth as it tries to reshape the economy towards more sustainable expansion based on consumer demand, after three decades of breakneck growth led by exports and credit.