Standard Chartered Bank yesterday put on an upbeat forecast for the mainland's economy, arguing that the true growth rates were higher than official figures suggested. The report by the bank's two economists Kwok Kwok-chuen and Liao Qun, runs contrary to the conventional wisdom among foreign economists, who believe mainland gross domestic product figures are overstated. They expect the mainland economy to grow by about 8 per cent this year and 7.5 per cent next year, reflecting the official forecasts. The State Statistical Bureau is expected to hold a press conference today on this year's economic performances, focusing on whether the mainland's 8 per cent GDP growth rate would be met or not. In the first nine months, GDP grew 7.2 per cent amid falling exports and foreign direct investment. 'We expect China's economy to grow by about 7.5 per cent in 1999 as domestic demand would strengthen to offset the weaker exports sector,' Mr Liao said. 'But more importantly, the government's focus is likely to shift from pursuing growth to stepping up reform of the state-owned enterprises.' Mr Liao and Mr Kwok said the mainland's economic growth rate of close to 10 per cent annually in the last two decades was not overstated. This stands in contrast to the common perception that, due to overproduction of unsold goods, the country's true economic growth was lower than the official numbers. 'The production of a lot of unsold goods by many state-owned enterprises means that the country's GDP numbers overstate the level of the country's useful output,' the report said. 'But, since the rate at which such unsold inventories build up is lower than the rate of economic growth, China's true economic growth rate is actually higher than the officially estimated GDP growth rate if the unsold inventories are excluded from the calculations.' The rate of inventory growth had been slowing in recent years because of reforms and tighter lending policy to poor enterprises by banks, it said.