SOARING inflation in China appears to be slowing down but the government continues to be tight-lipped over changes made to the consumer price index (CPI). CPI is a broader measure of inflation compared with the retail price index which, unlike the CPI, includes services. An official with China Statistics Consultants said yesterday in Beijing it was the policy of the State Statistical Bureau to adjust once every year the weightings of items composing the CPI. China Statistics Consultants is an information arm of the bureau. 'Changes are made at the start of each year based on the aggregate income and expenditure of the previous year,' said the official. He would not say whether it was the bureau's policy to hide details of changes, but Hong Kong-based economists said no changes to weightings had been revealed so far, except for the names of the CPI items themselves. China's CPI includes food, clothing, household, appliances and equipment, health care products, transport and telecommunications equipment, recreation, education and cultural sectors, housing and services. Hongkong Bank China Services research manager Benny Chiu said food accounted for the bulk of the CPI weightings, making up at least 40 per cent. However, China does not reveal any changes made to the weightings of the CPI components. The changes are made in order to give a more truthful reflection of the changing economy and consumption pattern. W I Carr (Far East) economist Gilbert Choy said: 'Changes to the weightings are normal, particularly for a country whose consumption pattern and behaviour change so much with rapid economic growth. 'What matters is nobody knows what has changed? And how representative the CPI figures are?' he said. The absence of the details, which could be very useful to shape a more precise picture of the Chinese economy, has annoyed economists. Mr Choy said: 'China's CPI figures can't be taken seriously.' He said CPI itself was not a perfect economic data in gauging inflation, but that 'there is no better alternative'. Despite that, he said the CPI figures could be useful in tracking economic trends. The last big change to China's inflation indicators was in 1993 when China announced new names for its major economic indicators. 'From 1994, China adopted CPI to replace cost of living index, and used retail price index instead of retail price inflation figures,' Mr Chiu said. But he said that since the name changes, China had revealed fewer statistics than before. 'The price of agricultural raw materials was stopped by then,' he said.