Some local statistics department reports give false numbers
The third national economic census reports released in December exposed some false reports by local statistics departments
For example, last year the real output of 39 enterprises in Hengshan county, Hunan province, was 580 million yuan ($96.67 million). But the figure was exaggerated to 4.4 billion yuan in the county’s statistics bureau report, which covers even some bankrupted businesses. One district in Changsha, capital of Hunan, reported the output of the district’s enterprises is more than 80 times that of the actual figure.
The false reports are prepared and made jointly by different departments to ensure the “growth” in the reports meet objectives set by higher authority
China has implemented a Statistics Law for more than 30 years. But only some county-level officials receive administrative punishment for cheating on statistics reports. When the statistics scandals are exposed, enterprises are mostly earmarked as the scapegoats, even if it is almost an open secret that the enterprises do this at the acquiescence of local governments to help the local authorities to fulfill their growth goals on paper.
Statistics reports are important references for making policies, rules and laws. China learned painful lessons about cheating on statistics in 1958 during the Great Leap Forward campaign. Grassroots communes exaggerated their grain output to please higher authorities. Wrong agricultural and economic policies were made, and a great famine followed in the early 1960s.
To avoid cheating on statistics reports, China needs to reform its statistics system.
The central and local statistics departments can be put under the administration of the National People’s Congress and its local branches to guarantee their independence from governments.
Power consumption, volume of railway freight and bank loans are rigid indexes for economic growth that are not easily falsified, and should be taken as an important reference to judge the authenticity of statistical data.
According to the Statistics Law, officials responsible for cheating on statistics reports should be prosecuted for criminal liability. If this really can be done, government officials will naturally abstain from tricks.
The National Statistics Bureau should also streamline its local branches, and apply more advanced information technology to minimize artificial influence on data.
The central authority should also revise the assessment system for local officials, making some key environmental indexes and local people’s evaluations as crucial standards to judge the officials’ performances.