False data no cure for slow de­vel­op­ment

De­cep­tion in In­ner Mon­go­lia and other ar­eas shows that some lo­cal of­fi­cials still have a dis­torted out­look on po­lit­i­cal per­for­mance

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - By MA JINBIAO The au­thor is a CCTV cul­tural pro­gram ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. The ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished in Bei­jing Youth Daily. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

The In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion re­cently joined Liaon­ing province in ad­mit­ting fal­si­ties in its eco­nomic and bud­getary data. At an eco­nomic work con­fer­ence ear­lier this month, the In­ner Mon­go­lia re­gional gov­ern­ment said some of its lower-level gov­ern­ments had in­flated their bud­getary in­comes by 53 bil­lion yuan ($8.17 bil­lion; 6.74 bil­lion eu­ros; £5.98 bil­lion) and in­dus­trial out­put by 290 bil­lion yuan. This prompted the In­ner Mon­go­lia sta­tis­tics au­thor­ity to trim the re­gion’s GDP for 2016, and the re­gional gov­ern­ment to halt work on some rail­way projects and other gov­ern­ment-sub­si­dized pro­grams, Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

Liaon­ing province also was found to have fudged eco­nomic data dur­ing an in­spec­tion early last year. But the fal­si­fy­ing of eco­nomic data in In­ner Mon­go­lia was on a much larger scale, be­cause com­pared with the 20 to 30 per­cent over­re­port­ing of data in Liaon­ing, the in­dus­trial added value of In­ner Mon­go­lia was padded by 40 per­cent for 2016.

Lo­cal eco­nomic data pro­vide an ob­jec­tive ba­sis for the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to for­mu­late a sci­en­tific macroe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment strat­egy and to make suit­able eco­nomic poli­cies. So the ac­cu­racy of the lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ data di­rectly de­ter­mines the ef­fec­tive­ness of de­ci­sion-mak­ing at the na­tional level. The fal­si­fy­ing of growth-re­lated data by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties not only has a neg­a­tive im­pact on gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion-mak­ing, but also the ex­po­sure of the false data dents in­vestors’ con­fi­dence in the re­gion by cast­ing a shadow on the lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ over­all in­tegrity.

The con­ti­nu­ity of the na­tional de­vel­op­ment strat­egy should be main­tained for a rel­a­tively long pe­riod, be­cause it usu­ally of­fers guid­ance to lo­cal gov­ern­ments to de­vise their own de­vel­op­ment plans. Since dif­fer­ent re­gions in China have dif­fer­ent lev­els of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, their gen­uine eco­nomic con­di­tion should be pre­sented to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment so that it can work out tar­geted poli­cies for them, es­pe­cially the less-de­vel­oped re­gions, to find a growth road that suits their con­di­tions.

Com­pared with other prov­inces and re­gions, Liaon­ing and In­ner Mon­go­lia have ex­peri- enced slow eco­nomic growth in re­cent years, un­der­lin­ing the need for them to get tar­geted pol­icy sup­port from the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties. But they should gain that sup­port based on gen­uine eco­nomic data.

If a se­ri­ously ill pa­tient re­fuses to tell the doc­tor his or her real med­i­cal prob­lem, how can the doc­tor prescribe the right medicines and/or med­i­cal pro­ce­dures for cure? Sim­i­larly, if the cen­tral gov­ern­ment is not told about the real eco­nomic ills that In­ner Mon­go­lia and Liaon­ing suf­fer from, how can it of­fer tar­geted pol­icy sup­port to them to ex­pe­dite their eco­nomic growth?

For the lo­cal gov­ern­ments, par­tic­u­larly those in less-de­vel­oped ar­eas, any beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of eco­nomic data is a silly be­hav­ior that could com­pro­mise their own de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. Be­hind such a folly, how­ever, are well-de­lib­er­ated mo­ti­va­tions and pur­poses. Some lo­cal of­fi­cials fal­sify their ar­eas’ eco­nomic data to add color to their po­lit­i­cal per­for­mances, which could fa­cil­i­tate their pro­mo­tion.

Less-de­vel­oped re­gions should adopt a down-to-earth ap­proach and pur­sue progress step by step. There are no shortcuts for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and any ea­ger­ness to develop by leaps and bounds through de­cep­tive means will force a re­gion off the nor­mal de­vel­op­ment track.

The data fal­si­fi­ca­tion prob­lem in In­ner Mon­go­lia and other ar­eas shows that some lo­cal of­fi­cials still have a dis­torted out­look on po­lit­i­cal per­for­mance. That the re­gion it­self re­vealed the prob­lem shows it has cor­rected its wrong work­ing at­ti­tude. Still, the clumsy tac­tics adopted by some ar­eas in In­ner Mon­go­lia and Liaon­ing have added dis­rup­tive fac­tors to China’s over­all de­vel­op­ment strat­egy, for which the of­fi­cials de­serve pun­ish­ment.

The scan­dal also makes it manda­tory for China to es­tab­lish a fool­proof GDP-based per­for­mance as­sess­ment mech­a­nism.


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