As part of the technical cooperation program between the IMF and China, the IMF’s Statistics Department, together with the People’s Bank of China and the Ministry of Finance of China, held two training seminars simultaneously in China and in Washington, D.C., during the last two weeks of August. The seminars were funded jointly by the Chinese authorities and Japan’s administered account, under which Japan contributes to the IMF’s technical assistance activities.
Macroeconomic statistics for users
The seminar on macroeconomic statistics for users, which was held in Chongqing, China, on August 29—31, was the first training activity in statistics under the auspices of the recently established Joint China-IMF Training Program. The seminar, first proposed by a multisector statistics mission that visited Beijing in 1998, was aimed at Chinese agencies involved in producing and using macroeconomic statistics. The objective was to introduce high-level officials to the uses of macroeconomic statistics in economic analysis and policy formulation by highlighting the role of sound statistical frameworks and the statistical linkages among the various economic sectors. Thirty officials representing 11 Chinese government agencies involved in data compilation and policy issues attended the seminar, which received strong support from the Chinese authorities. The seminar also received wide media coverage—on the front page of China Financial News, on China Xinhua News Agency’s Chongqing website, and on prime-time local TV—all emphasizing the importance of producing macroeconomic statistics in accordance with international standards and the crucial role of these statistics in policy decision and formulation.
The three-day seminar opened with a lecture by Carol Carson, Director of the IMF’s Statistics Department, on data quality and Chinese statistics. This set the stage for subsequent lectures and discussions on national accounts, including measures of GDP and prices, balance of payments, government finance, monetary statistics, the linkages among the four macroeconomic accounts, and the uses of these statistics for policy analysis and formulation. Many participants noted that the seminar had increased their familiarity with and appreciation of macroeconomic statistics and underlined the importance of compliance with internationally recognized standards and methodologies. They suggested that another seminar of this kind be organized for senior policymakers, whose participation and support would play a key role in further developing China’s statistical systems. In his closing remarks, Wang Xiaoyi, Director of the People’s Bank of China’s Statistics Department, stressed the importance of sound methodology in the compilation of macroeconomics statistics and expressed the hope that China would satisfy the prerequisites for the country’s participation in the IMF’s General Data Dissemination System in the near future.
Social security system in China
The two-week seminar on government finance statistics and social security was held in Washington and attended by a group of 33 Ministry of Finance officials from Beijing and 24 regions. The purpose of the seminar was to discuss statistical reporting on the operation of the Chinese social security system using the IMF’s government finance statistics (GFS) methodology, which is the internationally accepted standard for fiscal reporting.
Lectures by staff of the Government Finance Division covered the reporting methodology of the current and the revised Government Finance Statistics Manuals. Staff from the U.S. Social Security Administration, the Canadian Human Resources Development Department, and Statistics Canada illustrated the operation of the U.S. and Canadian social security systems. Participants were also provided with an outline of the analytical and policy implications of social insurance program design.
Wei Benhua, IMF Executive Director for China, addressed participants on IMF operations, emphasizing the importance the IMF places on transparency and the availability of timely and reliable statistical information that accords with international standards.
The leader of the Chinese delegation, Dai Bohua, Deputy Director General of the Policy and Program Department, Ministry of Finance, evaluated the Chinese social security system in terms of GFS definitions. In its current form, the Chinese “unified basic system” of social insurance, comprising the “social pooling” and “individual accounts” components, meets the criteria for classification as a GFS social security system, he noted.
The Chinese system includes a number of schemes, administered by different ministries, providing pension, health, unemployment, housing, and family support social insurance that are imposed and controlled by the government. They provide social benefits to large sections of the community and generally involve compulsory contributions. Participants noted that the current system in China was undergoing continuous review and that over the next few years the authorities would continue to explore options to shore up its financial viability. The Chinese authorities are expected to begin reporting social security data for publication in next year’s Government Finance Statistics Yearbook.