'The mainland's economy expanded faster than thought last year with the statistics agency raising its estimate for gross domestic product growth to 11.9 per cent from 11.4 per cent.' SCMP, April 11 But why stop there? If you're going to push it up from 11.4 per cent, why stop at 11.9 when 12 is just a touch away and 13 not too much higher? If your GDP numbers are not particularly attached to reality anyway, why not just cut the cords completely and let this balloon float straight to Fantasyland. Time for an update on how GDP works when it's compiled in Fantasyland. The blue line in the first chart gives you the official national figures. Last year it was 24.95 trillion yuan (HK$27.78 trillion). The red line shows what you get when you add up the GDP figures compiled by the individual provinces. Last year it was 27.37 trillion yuan. Yes, once again we have proof that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and by a record amount too. Combined provincial GDP was 10 per cent greater than national GDP last year. The margin has never previously been that great. The same magical phenomenon shows up in the GDP growth rate figures, as the second chart shows. Would you like to see better than a mere 11.9 per cent year on year growth? Easy. Just add up the weighted average of the provincial GDP growth data and the national figure becomes 14.2 per cent. What is more, not a single province got it wrong last year. Every one of them reported higher GDP growth than the nation's overall 11.9 per cent. Gansu and Xinjiang spoiled the show the previous year when they reported just under the national figure of 11.6 per cent. The two made sure not to repeat the mistake this year, however. And it doesn't stop there. Beijing's statistical models and procedures are so advanced that they permit both nominal GDP and GDP growth to be measured to two decimal places in every district and city across the country. When it's done, you get even more economic magic. Is the sum of the provinces greater than the national whole? Well, in like manner, the sum of the counties is greater than the provincial whole. Guangdong province reported 14.6 per cent growth in 2006 as against the nation's 11.6. Guangdong's counties, however, reported a weighted average of 16.4 per cent growth. See what I mean about cutting the cords to reality? I'm sorry to tell you that I can't give you the Guangdong figures for last year yet, as there has been a unaccountable delay in publishing them, for which the Guangdong provincial authorities really ought to be ashamed. Their counterparts in Chongqing, a centre of statistical science, have already long produced their 2007 figures. This only leaves me to wish they could push their abilities just a touch further and get us GDP figures down to the family level. That would take the mainland's GDP growth rate over 20 per cent and, by the time it's broken down to the individual person level, perhaps even 25 per cent. Perhaps then they could even do it by limb. What, for instance, is GDP per leg, per arm or per finger? Hold on to your seats for 30 per cent GDP growth. Now you may tell me it's old hat that bureaucrats across the border play with their production data to make themselves look good. It's the way of centrally planned economies and those who don't play along put their jobs on the line. But what I can't understand is that we still treat these figures with a respect they don't deserve. Does the National Statistics Bureau really expect us to believe that its revised 11.9 per cent figure has the accuracy of a speedometer on a car? The car, you see, offers a good metaphor for GDP growth, not in the speedometer but in an old-fashioned three-speed transmission. The three speeds I have in mind are slow, fast and probable nonsense. What these people claim is probable nonsense. What they probably have is fast. Isn't that good enough without pretending that they sit in a rocket ship instead of a car?