Wednesday, November 14, 2007

China is a lot poorer than we thought

So says Albert Kiedel of the Carnegie Endowment in the FT:

...The Asian Development Bank presented official survey results indicating China's economy is smaller and poorer than established estimates say. The announcement cited the first authoritative measure of China's size using purchasing power parity methods. The results tell us that when the World Bank announces its expected PPP data revisions later this year, China's economy will turn out to be 40 per cent smaller than previously stated......The number of people in China living below the World Bank's dollar-a-day poverty line is 300m - three times larger than currently estimated.

Why such a large revision in the estimates of China's economic condition? Until recently, China had never participated in the careful price surveys needed to convert accurately its gross domestic product into PPP dollars. The World Bank's estimates based on summary data from the late 1980s probably overstated China's PPP gross domestic product even then. Up to now, the bank has revised its estimate very little. In the meantime, China has repeatedly raised the prices of food, housing, healthcare and a range of other non-traded goods and services. These reforms should have lowered the PPP adjustment, but the bank left it basically unchanged.

These PPP adjustments affect poverty measures because the World Bank's dollar-a-day poverty line is a PPP dollar poverty line. Reducing PPP consumption estimates drops large numbers of additional households below the poverty line.

For China, the correction needs to be made back to the 1980s and 1990s, when instead of World Bank estimates of roughly 300m people below the dollar-a-day poverty line, the number was more likely more than 500m. China has made enormous strides in lifting its population out of poverty - but the task was perhaps more gargantuan than most people thought and progress has been overstated by bank estimates.

Hat Tip to Jonathan Dingell

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This goes a long way in explaining the ever increasing number of uprisings in China I have blogged about in rural in-land China.