The announcement of the latest results of Green Gross Domestic Product (GDP) hit a stumbling block as some officials assert the time is not ripe to make a Green GDP report public.
The head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Xie Fuzhan, said in response to reporters' question recently in Beijing that it proved hard to calculate the economic cost of environmental deterioration as there is no worldwide criterion for Green GDP calculation.
China, which is being ravaged by severe pollution woes, released its first ever Green GDP report in 2004, which subtracted the cost of natural resources and the environmental degradation from the standard GDP figure.
Jointly issued by the NBS and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the report hit a snag in 2005 as the NBS urged the SEPA not to publicize it. And resistance against releasing the result of the Green GDP even gained more momentum.
As a newly-created system, Green GDP is set to face mounting difficulties in measuring economic development at the cost of sacrificing the environment. But problems with methodology, which can be improved, should not be the only reasons for hindering the promotion of Green GDP. Some allege that some local governments and vested interest groups remain major roadblocks for implementing the pilot system, which China needs urgently.
The deduction of the cost of resources and environmental impact from the total GDP figure (of a province or a county) will definitely cause a sharp fall in total GDP figure and a negative increment will be expected as some provinces scramble to curb severe environmental pollution.
Some officials will do their utmost to resist the humiliating report from coming out as local economic development still plays a key role in local officials' chances of getting promoted.
But grim environmental and tremendous energy conservation pressures are facing the country, which is badly in need of energy to fuel robust growth, should not allow the government to take a wait-and-see approach in Green GDP calculating standards.
It is time for the country to go ahead with the system while carrying out its official achievement evaluation, on which economic development always has a final say.
First, relevant systems must be put in place to bolster the implementation of Green GDP. The central government has appealed to put into effect a new concept of scientific development in a bid to ensure healthy and fast economic growth. But in light of the current situation, local governments don't have sufficient internal stimulants and external pressures to make changes to the long-implemented development model of managing the economy.
Industries of high-energy consumption and environmental pollution expanded in the first half of the year. Meanwhile, nationwide inspections by national and provincial environmental protection bodies have shown that some governments should be held responsible for damaging the environment and causing devastating pollution. Serious regional protectionism also provided shelter for some industrial developmental zones and high-tech development areas.
The scientific concept of development and the restructuring of the economic development pattern are faced with daunting challenges. A scientific achievement assessment is badly needed in an effort to put the new concept and pattern into practice instead of making them superficial political slogans.
Second, a Green GDP system helps to raise awareness of environmental protection among officials and get rid of the traditional achievement evaluation system focusing only on the economy. The calculation of Green GDP records both the merits and demerits of the country's GDP growth, and shows the cost of environmental degradation and energy resources. It also reveals a series of economic development indicators, which prevents us from being blindly optimistic with the economy and helps us to achieve a goal of sustainable development.
Resource consumption, environmental damage and benefits should be included in the official achievement assessment to avoid officials being sacked by the performance of local GDP figures. In doing so, governments and officials will be likely to give priority to the quality of development and the progress of tackling social challenges.
A Green GDP system has turned out to be a measuring stick to determine officials' achievements. Although the calculation of a Green GDP is not perfect, it makes great strides in the assessment mechanism among governments and cadres.
It is worth speeding up the implementation of Green GDP system now.