Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making the Numbers Add Up

The Chinese government has a number fetish.

It uses numbers to describe its economic development, with "year-on-year increase" as its favourite phrase, meaning a rise compared to the same period the year before.

Not only does the country have a gross national product reported constantly, but every Chinese province has one too.

Earlier this year President Hu Jintao floated the idea of calculating a green GDP, to show economic development at the cost of the environment. This would have been a world's first and Hu had hoped this would show local officials that sustainable development was more important than just economy.

But the idea was killed before economists could crunch the numbers; some officials and experts complained that since there was no formula in place, how could they even begin to calculate a green GDP.

And now the government wants to quantify harmony.

In 2004, the Chinese Communist Party adopted the idea of "building a harmonious society" as a way to judge its leadership.

According to the article in Chinese media, "a harmonious society is defined as a socialist democracy, with rule of law, social justice, honesty and credibility, balancing human activities and natural resources."

But since then, many Chinese citizens aren't feeling the love and are becoming more skeptical about the government actually serving the people's interests. And hence bureaucrats think quantifying social harmony in numbers might make the achievement seem more black and white.

However, experts quoted in the story don't think this can be done, saying social harmony has more to do with relationships between different social groups which can be difficult to measure numerically.

We'll have to see if this idea will also be shot down or reports will surface about an X per cent year-on-year increase in social harmony thanks to the government's policies.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

ks said...

in canada most of the forecast figures given by the government are wrong, way out of estimates. for example the recent federal budget revealed we have 4x the surplus as forcasted before the fiscal year. thus it is entirely possible the chinese figures are also out of wack. with a huge population and huge amount of statistics i venture to say they will all be out of range. it does not matter much though as the figures are only for show only they are not real dough.