False data no cure for slow development
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 have inflated their budgetary incomes by 53 billion yuan ($8.17 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, a Xinhua News Agency report said.
Liaoning province, too, 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 20-30 percent over-reporting 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 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 the 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 experienced 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 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 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 punishments.
The scandal also makes it mandatory for China to establish a foolproof GDP-based performance assessment mechanism.
The author is a CCTV cultural program executive producer. The article was first published in Beijing Youth Daily.