China’s National Bureau of Statistics will be responsible for regional data collection starting from 2019, due to concerns over continued discrepancies between the official numbers for provincial and nationwide economic performance.
Li Xiaochao, deputy head of the NBS, said that discrepancies between national and provincial GDP figures remained a besetting problem that impeded the ability of policymakers garner an accurate read of economic conditions.
“The problem of discrepancy between regional and national GDP data has significantly improved, but [the gap] is still large,” said Li in an interview with China Information News published by the bureau’s official website.
“The situation is not conducive to accurately understanding regional economic trends, scientifically implementing macroeconomic controls, and impacts the credibility of government statistics.”
Fifteen years ago the total GDP of China’s 31 provinces was 10% ahead of national GDP, while Reuters reports that the discrepancy between regional and national GDP data last year was 2.76 trillion yuan (approx. USD$415.1 billion), with aggregate provincial output ahead by 3.7%.
Li Keqiang is notorious for complaining that some of China’s official statistics were “man-made,” while several high-profile cases of fraudulent government data have prompted senior government figures to commit to severe penalties for the submission of falsified figures.
Under the new arrangement NBS will cooperate with local statistical offices to collect regional data in accordance with the latest United Nations standards, with R&D spending and the service output from owner-occupied housing slated for inclusion in assessments as part of efforts to improve accuracy.
As part of the central government’s increasing emphasis upon “quality growth,” NBS will introduce a new benchmark in the form of the “green development index,” which will consist a total of 50 indicators including economic structure and pollution.
National and regional data will also be released simultaneously under the new system.
Sheng Laiyuan, NBS chief economist, said to Bloomberg that the new system would “nearly eliminate” the statistical gap.
“China is cleaning up the environment for statistical work and ensuring that there’s no interference by officials,” Sheng said.