China economy

First it faked its data. Now Inner Mongolia’s late releasing the numbers

Northern region has yet to publish GDP figures for the first quarter after admitting it overstated its economic performance in the past

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 10:37pm

Inner Mongolia, a region that four months ago admitted it had inflated its economic and fiscal numbers, is late in releasing its data for the first quarter of this year.

Of the 31 provincial-level jurisdictions across China, it was the only one that had not yet published its gross domestic product for the January to March period as of Friday, according to a check of regional statistics bureaus by the South China Morning Post.

The National Bureau of Statistics released the country’s first-quarter economic growth rate – 6.8 per cent – last month, and most of the provincial authorities had released their numbers by the end of April.

Inner Mongolia did issue a press release on April 25 about its economic performance in the first three months, but it did not mention the region’s GDP size or growth.

The northern autonomous region in January said it had overstated industrial output for 2016 by 40 per cent and fiscal revenues for that year by 25 per cent.

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An official at the region’s statistics bureau, which is in charge of data releases, said they had not received any instructions to publish GDP data.

“Once we get the notice about the GDP figures, we will put them online immediately,” said the official, who did not know why the data was being held.

Inner Mongolia’s economy is not in good shape – the region’s growth rate plunged to 4 per cent last year from 7.2 per cent in 2016. It was a different story a decade ago, when the region reported the fastest growth rate in China for eight consecutive years to 2009.

But officials in Ordos may have shed some light on how the region is faring now. Its statistics bureau posted a spreadsheet containing data for the underpopulated megacity and for the whole region on its website, showing regional growth of 4.6 per cent in the first quarter – much slower than its full-year target of 6.5 per cent.

An official at the bureau said the data was accurate when reached by the Post earlier this week. But hours later, a second official called back from the statistics bureau phone number saying that 4.6 per cent was not the official growth rate.

“We have not been given any feedback about the data for the region,” the second official said.

The delay could be to do with the need for an “adjustment” of earlier figures by the region’s statistics bureau after past numbers were inflated, the second official said, suggesting that the delay meant they were working to ensure the accuracy of the new economic data. Neither official would give their name or title, and the spreadsheet was later removed from the website.

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Inner Mongolia was the second major Chinese region to admit it had cooked its books, after rust-belt province Liaoning last year said its GDP numbers from 2011 to 2014 had been inflated by about 20 per cent.

According to the Ordos spreadsheet, the first-quarter GDP of Inner Mongolia’s 12 areas combined was a nominal 24 per cent lower than a year ago – but a total based instead on the GDP of cities is always higher than an overall provincial figure.

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