Vietnam economists perplexed by massive gap between official GDP estimates

By Anh Vu, Thanh Nien News

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An electronics factory in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang An electronics factory in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang

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Economists are scratching their heads over a discrepancy of nearly VND300 trillion (US$13.18 billion) between the estimates of Vietnam's 2015 gross domestic product released by two government agencies, warning that the issue could result in mismanagement.
Speaking at a meeting on Thursday, economist Vu Dinh Anh said in a report published on December 12, the General Statistics Office of Vietnam estimated the country's GDP will be nearly VND4,193 trillion, compared to the finance ministry's estimate of VND4,484 trillion.
"The gap has given me a real headache. I have kept calculating, but could not understand how they came up with the figures," he said.
Such a huge gap could distort other statistics measured in proportion to GDP, including budget deficit and state revenue figures, Anh said.
For instance, Vietnam's state budget saw a deficit of VND226 trillion in 2015, or 5 percent of GDP, based on the finance ministry's estimate. It means the government met the limit set by the National Assembly.
But, it would be 5.4 percent of GDP if the number of the statistics office was the right one, meaning the government would have missed the target, Anh said.
Speaking to Thanh Nien, economist Ngo Tri Long said it was not the first time government figures were inconsistent. He said it may have been caused by different approaches applied by different agencies, or the dishonesty of agencies who want to make themselves look good.
Wrong figures can affect how policies are made as real problems are hidden, Long said.
Commenting on the problem, economist Le Dang Doanh said the Ministry of Finance always releases its statistics too soon, which is not advisable because accuracy can be compromised.
He also urged the government to improve the transparency and consistency of its statistics.
Vietnam's economy grew 6.68 percent in 2015, the fastest in five years and expanded the government's target of 6.2 percent, according to official figures.

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