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Reform set for GDP calculation

Chen Jia
Updated: Dec 26,2014 7:28 AM     China Daily

New system to end discrepancy in figures, highlight quality of growth

China is accelerating statistical reform to launch a new unified system to calculate gross domestic product in the nation’s regions.

The move is aimed at preventing inflated local figures contradicting central government calculations, the nation’s top statistician said on Dec 25.

The central government will have the sole right to evaluate the GDP and growth rates of every province and municipality, said Ma Jiantang, director of the National Bureau of Statistics.

Ma made the comments at the annual National Statistics Work Conference in Beijing.

A draft of the reform has been sent to the State Council, awaiting approval that is expected to be given in the first half of next year.

Economists said that under the new system, total GDP and growth rates may show a different economic trend when compared with expectations under traditional methods.

Experts predict the new system is likely to take effect in 2016-the first year of the 13th Five-Year Plan.

The current statistical method is based on a direct reporting system from each province and municipality.

Under performance evaluation standards, a high regional GDP is seen by local officials as a route to achieving important career rewards.

Xiang Songzuo, chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China, said a unified statistical system will help to calculate more accurate economic indicators.

It will also avoid inflated growth figures from local governments, especially when the economy is facing downside risks, Xiang said.

“Previously, total local GDP figures were usually higher than the final national figure, which means the data was unconvincing and did not reflect economic development,” he said.

The nation’s GDP in the first three quarters of this year totaled 41.99 trillion yuan ($6.82 trillion), according to the National Bureau of Statistics, while the figures from the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities added up to 47.36 trillion yuan.

Xu Fengxian, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said local governments’ enthusiasm for chasing high GDP figures may cool under the new system, and they will pay more attention to growth quality.

Ma said China will adopt the International Monetary Fund’s Special Data Dissemination Standard next year to enhance the availability of timely and comprehensive economic and financial data.

This will fulfill a promise to improve the dissemination of statistics made by President Xi Jinping at the Ninth G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia in November, Ma said.

He suggested that the surveyed unemployment rate be released soon, saying this will be the focus of global attention as it can show real growth quality and the situation in China’s job market.

He stressed the importance of this data, saying the nation’s top leadership requires a more specific job market indicator before setting the annual GDP growth target and adjusting macroeconomic policies.

Economists predict that as long as unemployment remains low, policymakers may tolerate a slower growth rate of about 7 percent next year, compared with 7.5 percent in 2014.

Ma said the unemployment survey will expand samples and increase statistical content based on the current registered unemployment rate provided by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

In 2013, the registered unemployment rate in urban areas reached 4 percent, according to the statistics bureau.

Ma also said that big data and cloud computing will provide new technology support for production of statistics in China.

“We will further use data from the online trading platform to calculate more accurate indicators of retail sales, and regularly report the online retail figures,” Ma said.

The bureau will also use online search and web browser technology to improve the statistics in the consumer price index, producer price index and house sales data.

Telecom regulatory and population registration data can also help to clarify the unemployment situation and monitor population movement, Ma said.

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