Beijing tweaks its way of calculating GDP

A construction site in Beijing. Accelerating major construction projects is just one of many measures the Chinese government is taking to boost growth.
A construction site in Beijing. Accelerating major construction projects is just one of many measures the Chinese government is taking to boost growth.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • China is tweaking the way it reports quarterly gross domestic product data, paving the way for the nation to adopt an  International Monetary Fund (IMF) standard as it presses ahead with the goal of gaining reserve currency status for the yuan.

The new method will create conditions for China to adopt the IMF's Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) and will better reflect short-term fluctuations in the economy, said the National Bureau of Statistics yesterday.

The IMF describes the SDDS, established in 1996, as "a global benchmark for disseminating macroeconomic statistics to the public".

Under the change, the statistics bureau will now release its tally of economic output for each quarter, along with a cumulative reading. Formerly, it released quarterly economic growth rates, but did not specify the value of GDP for each three-month period on its own.

China has recently introduced a series of other technical policy changes to aid its bid to join the SDR basket of currencies, including allowing overseas lenders to buy and sell the yuan onshore for direct investments, publishing a currency reference rate five times a day, and permitting banks to set whatever deposit rate they like for terms longer than a year. Those moves were in addition to the shock yuan devaluation on Aug 11 in a change that gave markets a bigger say in setting the currency's value.

"China needs to adopt international standards if its currency wants to become an internationally used reserve currency," said Mr Li Wei, the China and Asia economist for Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney. Increased transparency and compliance with international standards are the benefits of the new method, he said.

China's statistics bureau had been in cooperation with the IMF, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to learn the newest international measures for compiling GDP data and after several years preparation felt now is the time to launch reforms, the statement said.

Quarterly GDP numbers for last year were revised down. China this week also revised lower its GDP growth number for 2014 to 7.3 per cent from 7.4 per cent.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2015, with the headline 'Beijing tweaks its way of calculating GDP'. Print Edition | Subscribe