Beijing has been ranked 23rd out of 30 mainland provinces and municipalities in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) growth so far this year. The figures, released at the weekend, show the capital lags most other eastern areas. They reinforce concerns over the slow pace of development in the high-technology industry and service sector, and reflect the continued impact of the Sars crisis. In GDP, Beijing was outperformed by Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Guangzhou for the second year running. GDP for the first nine months of this year totalled 246.2 billion yuan (HK$230.74 billion), with a year-on-year growth rate of 10 per cent, slightly higher than the growth rate recorded last year but still shy of the 11 per cent target set for the capital in May. In spite of indications to the contrary, officials from the statistics bureau insisted the local economy had recovered almost completely from the effects of Sars, although they said the service sector and tourism remained sluggish. Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics spokeswoman Yu Xiuqin described the capital's tourism industry as 'lacklustre' and was quoted by China News Service as saying the city's overall 'economic development potential has not been fully realised'. But Song Guoqing, from the China Centre for Economic Research at Peking University, said the slower pace of GDP growth in the capital could only be attributed in part to the impact of Sars. He said the route of the problem was long-term slower than average growth in the service sector. 'The industrial sector has accounted for much of the growth in GDP nationwide over recent years. But compared with other provinces, the industrial sector takes up a smaller proportion in Beijing,' Professor Song said. 'In terms of GDP growth, Beijing's ranking will not change dramatically in the next few years because the overall structure of the local economy is not likely to change and the service sector still has a long way to go.' Industrial value-added output reached 72.72 billion yuan in Beijing in the first nine months, representing a 12.3 per cent increase year on year but leaving Beijing ranked 26th out of 30. In terms of an increase in investment in fixed assets, the capital was placed at the bottom of the ranking at No30. But Professor Song said economic strength should not be judged by examining annual GDP growth alone. 'A more scientific method is to examine average growth over several years. However, even in this regard the southeastern coastal provinces can still be expected to outperform Beijing,' he said.