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National census close to formal registration date
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-20 10:15

China is grasping its last chance to educate people to ensure the accuracy of figures collected during the First National Economic Census.

Domestic media, including news-papers and television, have all increased coverage of census-related stories over the last month, as the day for the formal registration of the census December 31 draws near.

"We want to make December the high tide of our publicity," said Li Deshui, commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics.

Worries of the surveyed need to be removed, while mistakes by some local statistics departments need to be corrected, said Li, who is also deputy head of the Leading Group of the State Council for the First National Economic Census.

"This is vital to the economic census, which is designed to draw an economic panorama of China's manufacturing, building and service industries, and complete a database covering all economic sectors," he said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

The government has arranged about 10 million census takers and billions of yuan, Li said.

The census is expected to involve more than 35 million companies and institutions with or without legal status, or more than 85 per cent of the country's total economic volume.

Government departments, social organizations, companies and individual company owners will be required to tell census workers not only their business type, the number of the employees and their financial status, but also their business situation, production capacity, the amount of raw materials and energy consumed, and their scientific activities.

"The census is a big issue in China's economic and social life," Li said.

It plays an important role in outlining future strategy and policies for economic and social development, adjusting and optimizing the economic structure, as well as beefing up and improving China's macro-controls, he said.

The government is currently drawing up the 11th Five-Year (2006-10) plan for the country's economic and social development.

The results of the economic census can be applied to the plan immediately, Li said.

For local governments, the census is helpful for them to understand the basic situations of their respective areas. It will help them better fine-tune the local economy and beef up market supervision, social management and public services.

The census also benefits those who are surveyed, Li said.

Companies and other business organizations can take advantage of the census results to analyze the market and to improve their business management.

The Statistics Division of the United Nations said last week conducting an economic census in a country with a population of 1.3 billion is of great significance both to China and to the world.

The high growth of the Chinese economy over the past 2 decades has attracted worldwide attention, it said.

"China has emerged as an important economic and trade partner in Asia and the world. Information collected through the economic census on the size, structure and efficiency of the economy will not only meet the needs of the Chinese Government and businesses in preparing development strategies and investment decisions, but will also help countries in Asia and in the world understand the Chinese economy better," it said.

The United Nations Statistics Division is ready to assist China's census by sharing international experiences and best practices in the conduct of large-scale censuses, it said.

Li said the central government has paid special attention to the issue.

Premier Wen Jiabao presided at an executive meeting of the State Council in November last year, specially studying and deploying the work of the economic census, he said.

After the meeting, the Leading Group of the State Council for the First National Economic Census, headed by Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, was established.

In September this year, Premier Wen issued the National Economic Census Regulation, which provides a law and system guarantee for the census work.

Preparation work for the census has so far gone smoothly, with all the provincial, prefectural and county governments establishing their census offices and leading groups, Li said.

The office of the leading group of the census and the National Bureau of Statistics have finished designing the census scheme and the software for the census data processing.

Selection and training of the census takers have also been finished.

Li said most of the companies and organizations being surveyed, especially foreign-funded companies, are co-operative.

However, an inspection by the leading group in October and November found that problems also exist.

A small group of companies, especially small and medium-sized companies and individual company owners, refused to co-operate with census takers, because they worry their company secrets may be disclosed.

Some local statistics departments also try to artificially change the census figures collected at the preliminary registration, so the figures are in line with their annual reports published earlier.

"If companies report false figures, and the statistics departments artificially change the figures, how can we ensure the accuracy of the census?" he said.

He pledged the figures collected during the census would be kept strictly secret and that no other government departments would be allowed to punish anyone by using the data as evidence.

"Anyone who discloses the figures to other departments will be considered having broken the law and be punished," Li said.

According to the National Economic Census Regulation, government departments, social organizations, enterprises and individual company owners are obligated to provide correct information to the authorities.

The government will punish those who refuse to accept the census or provide false figures, he said. "Some of them will be publicly criticized through the media."

They may also be fined up to 50,000 yuan (US$6,024).

Earlier in December, the National Bureau of Statistics announced a list of 30 government departments, institutions and enterprises who violated the country's statistics law by refusing to provide data or by giving false figures.

At the top of the list is the Veteran Cadre Bureau of the Commission for Supervision and Management of State-owned Properties of the State Council, which repeatedly declined to co-operate with the census personnel even though the act was publicized by China Central Television.

The leading group of the census and the National Bureau of Statistics will also punish local statistics departments, which artificially change the figures collected during the census, Li said.

"Directors of local statistics departments, who are found making such mistakes, will be criticized or even be removed from their posts," he said.

Li Qiang, chief statistician of the National Bureau of Statistics, said the top priority of the current census was to ensure the government would get accurate, timely and comprehensive figures.

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