'Accountants have shown strong opposition to a goods and services tax, with nearly two-thirds of respondents to a survey rejecting the government's proposal. Sixty-two per cent were against a GST, compared with 31 per cent in favour, according to a survey commissioned by the Legislative Council's accountancy representative, Mandy Tam Heung-man. The Civic Party legislator sent questionnaires to 26,000 accountants last month and had received 311 responses by Friday.' SCMP, September 18 STRONG OPPOSITION WAS IT? Could someone please explain to me how any group of people can be said to hold strong views on an issue when only 1.2 per cent of them could be bothered to respond to a survey on it? This survey indeed produced a surprising result. You would ordinarily think that a proposal to introduce a new tax is just the sort of thing to stir the interests of accountants mightily. They invariably jump at the chance to make their views known on tax matters. Yet, even after Ms Tam gave her constituents more than two weeks to respond, it turns out that 98.8 per cent of them sent their copies of her questionnaire straight to the round filing bins under their desks. More surprising still is that she then thought the few responses she received had any validity. I think, madam, that you should first have consulted a professional statistician. You would have been told that a 1.2 per cent response rate is so abysmally low that no reliable conclusion at all could be drawn from this exercise. At that level of response, you are virtually guaranteed that the opinions you garner are unrepresentative. Those 311 returned questionnaires should have been consigned to the same fate as the 25,689 that were not returned. You should have binned them outright and kept your mouth shut rather than tabulate them and mislead the public with utterly undependable findings. In fact, madam, it makes we wonder about your standing with your constituents. If 98.8 per cent of them hold you, their elected representative, in such low regard that they cannot be bothered to respond when you poll them on a major tax question, then I think the only poll that should now concern you is the next election to that functional constituency. Somehow I get the impression that you may not hold your seat in the Legislative Council much longer. TALKING OF UNRELIABLE figures, I see that Premier Wen Jiabao has assured us that the flow of financial and economic data from Beijing will not be impeded by new rules tightening restrictions on foreign news agencies operating in the mainland. It is good to know this, Sir, but the problem with the financial and economic information that emanates from your statistical agencies is that what goes out from them is only as good as what goes into them and what goes into them is still not very good at all. For starters, could you please get the people who compile your national accounts to do it on a consistent basis so that the sum of the parts equals the whole? Last year, only the province of Yunan registered a lower economic growth rate than the overall national figure. And, staying on the subject of news reports from Beijing, it seems that there has been very little official reporting in the mainland of the demonstrations in Taipei against alleged corruption of President Chen Shui-bian. Officials are reportedly worried about the unsettling effects it may have on cross-straits relations. I can see why this might have bothered them 15 years ago but it impels me to present two charts which say that they can largely treat troubles in Taiwan as a tempest in a teapot these days. The first chart shows you that China's exports are now four times greater than Taiwan's. In 1990, Taiwan's exports were greater. The second shows you that Taiwan's stock market index on a US-dollar-adjusted basis still stands at less than half the level it did at the beginning of 1990. OK, this is an economic response to a political question but then I am of the view that the economic perspective is the one you need for measuring the real importance of political tempests. We increasingly have a Taipei teapot here.