The Achievements of the Canada-China
Statistical Cooperation Program (SIMP)
Mr. Bela Prigly
International Relations Devision, Statistics Canada
The relationship between the Chinese and Canadian national statistical bureaux has a fairly long history. During the 22nd session of the Statistical Commission of the United Nations, held in March 1983, the Chief Statistician of Canada approached the Chinese delegation with the proposal to establish contacts between the two organizations. The Chinese side welcomed this initiative, and sent several groups of statisticians to Statistics Canada on study tours. In August 1984, the Chief Statistician of Canada visited China and held discussions in Beijing and several other cities. The following year the Director General of the SSB (which was the former title of the NBS Commissioner) paid a visit to Canada, during which a formal cooperation agreement was signed which paved the way for a larger number of delegations from China to visit Statistics Canada. After a short hiatus in the early 1990s, contacts resumed in 1994, and during the November 1994 visit of the Prime Minister of Canada to China, the Canadian and Chinese governments agreed ※to link Canada＊s statistical agency, Statistics Canada, with China＊s State Statistical Bureau and other relevant agencies in order to promote the improved collection, analysis, use and dissemination of statistical information§. In the summer of 1995, Statistics Canada undertook a fact-finding mission to China, which was followed, in January 1996, by a program definition mission, the report of which set the stage for the commencement of actual work. The program was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Since Canada has a centralized statistical system, Statistics Canada is able to offer technical assistance in just about any field of statistical activities, including the management of a national statistical office. Accordingly, Statistics Canada has been involved in technical cooperation projects in a considerable number of countries in different parts of the world, addressing a wide variety of topics. However, our cooperation with the National Bureau of Statistics of China was the first instance that the funding available was sufficient to support a comprehensive multi-year program.
SIMP 每 Inception 每 Modification
The Statistical Information Management Program (SIMP), under which Statistics Canada agreed to cooperate with the National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS) to improve the statistical services in China and the effectiveness of the NBS itself, was launched in 1996, with an expiry date of March 31, 2001. The program was structured in such a way that simultaneous attention could be given to organizational and infrastructure development, and the introduction of statistical measures required under market economy conditions.
Activities scheduled for the first phase of the program have taken place largely on schedule. In this period, NBS and Statistics Canada established cooperative relationships, and implemented components that were appropriate to an initial stage such as statistical legislation, market economy seminars, introductory workshop on National Accounts, workshop on enterprise statistics, and general training in price statistics. In 1998, the NBS and Statistics Canada evaluated the progress to date under SIMP, and formulated new Project Principles to facilitate implementation and increase effectiveness. Individual activities would focus on concrete outputs, contributing to an improvement in a specific area of China＊s statistical system. To achieve greater focus and improved concentration of effort, the number of activities was reduced.
The reorientation was aimed at further facilitating the overall aims of SIMP, by instituting a process that was more sensitive to the NBS＊ changing priorities. A modest reallocation of the budget freed up funds for more concentrated work in the areas of organizational development and infrastructure. Projects dealing with general survey skills, financial management, human resources management, and the establishment of a statistical databank and a metadata system, are specific examples which benefited from this reallocation. The new working methods introduced, and the new projects defined, necessitated an extension of the program by two years.
It needs to be recognized that the introduction of these changes represented the implementation of results-based management at its best.
Study tours of senior managers of the Chinese statistical system to Statistics Canada
One of the projects in the cooperation program consisted of study tours of senior managers of the National Bureau of Statistics of China, Directors of the Statistical Bureaux of the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities with provincial status. Three subsequent Commissioners of the NBS, Deputy Commissioners and other senior managers also participated in this project.
The purpose of the study tours was to provide a broad understanding of the organization and functioning of a modern national statistical agency. The programs included an initial discussion with the Chief Statistician of Canada, followed by each Assistant Chief Statistician, outlining the structure and responsibilities of his or her field, and featuring some important recent or current developments. The presentations also covered managerial issues, such as planning, financial and human resources management.
Statistical Policy Seminars
Two such events were organized as part of the program 每 the first in 1996, at the beginning of the activities, and the second in 2002. While both were judged successful, the success of the second one surpassed everyone＊s expectations. The three-day Seminar took place in Suzhou, and was a testament to the organizational skill of the NBS. The program attracted senior government officials not only from the NBS, but also from a wide range of ministries and other central agencies. The Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Vice-Minister of the Development Research Center under the State Council made presentations. Other officials attending the event were from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Science and Technology the Foreign Trade and Economic Commission, the State Planning Commission, the State Economics and Trade Commission, the Ministry of Finance, the People＊s Bank of China, the State Administration of Taxation, the China National Tourism Administration, the State General Administration for Quality Supervision and Inspection, representatives of approximately ten provinces and autonomics regions, and of half a dozen universities and scientific organizations.
Statistics Canada＊s delegation to the Conference was headed by the Chief Statistician of Canada, and included three Assistant Chief Statisticians. The Vice-President of CIDA＊s Asia Branch also presented a paper.
The three-day Conference had three main themes.
The first theme presented Statistics Canada＊s outreach and governance approaches since the nineteen eighties. The Chief Statistician of Canada introduced the topic with a presentation on the characteristics of a successful statistical system and on the transformation Statistics Canada has undergone since the late nineteen-seventies. This was followed by discussions on planning, priority settings and financial management in a statistical institute; on managing statistical programs, using project management and a matrix management structure; and on planning and executing the re-engineering of a large statistical program.
The second theme dealt with credibility of the information produced by a statistical bureau and the means to communicate that information. Presentations by two senior Canadian officials and one senior Chinese official covered the criteria that policy makers and international institutes use to gauge the credibility of statistics and the extent to which they use them to make decisions. A complementary presentation was made on the importance of analysis and of effectively communicating findings to the public. Discussions followed on how best to determine client needs and mechanisms for ongoing communication with them; maintaining credibility through analysis and attention to data quality; and persuading clients to invest in the production of additional statistical information .
The third theme covered the NBS＊ strategic objectives and how their attainment could be facilitated by some of the approaches discussed during the first two days. The Commissioner of the NBS introduced the theme by describing NBS＊ major strategic objectives, followed by discussions on its statistical capacity building policies; establishing evaluation mechanisms for statistical programs; and obtaining support for statistics from users and society at large.
The participation in the discussions was very lively, in fact more people wanted to talk than the available time permitted.
China has taken a somewhat unique approach in taking household surveys. It conducts separate urban and rural household surveys. Two separate survey units exist at NBS 每 The Rural Survey Organization (RSO) and The Urban Survey Organization (USO). The two surveys use different sample designs; the questionnaires used and the underlying concepts incorporated are not harmonized; and, the data from the two surveys cannot be aggregated to obtain national level estimates of key variables. In terms of coverage, the sample coverage of the two surveys largely excludes the so called ※floating population§, made up of rural dwellers that have migrated to urban centers. The floating populations, estimated at between 80 and 120 million, are thus not fully covered by ongoing household surveys. The survey content is not sufficiently in line with the data requirements for making detailed poverty analyses or estimating GDP components. The surveys emphasize cash transactions, and only partially include non-cash incomes and consumption.
Thus, China＊s system of separate household surveys of the urban and rural segments of the population, and the exclusion of the so-called ※floating population§, and the other limitations referred to above, have set China apart from almost all other countries. These issues have been the subject of extensive comment. The necessity to introduce changes was acknowledged at the inception of SIMP. The project initially identified four issues to be addressed: treatment of floating population; respondent burden; content harmonization; and, survey integration. The importance of these four issues has been stressed in both the design and implementation of the Household Survey component of SIMP. Although the intervention of local governments in the data capture and processing of the data had not been identified as an issue, such interventions contribute to data distortions. This issue was identified during the Statistical Policy Seminar in Suzhou and it was suggested that new approaches to the, design collection and processing of household surveys could help to eliminate or strongly reduce local intervention in order to improve data quality. During this discussion, Statistics Canada has strongly suggested that the treatment of outliers be done at the national level by a group of expert analysts to avoid introducing severe downward biases in the estimates.
Resources allocated to the household survey component represented the largest amount allocated for an activity in SIMP. This allocation was in recognition of the high priority assigned to strengthening the survey capacity of NBS. Strengthening the capacity to mount effective surveys was seen by both Statistics Canada and the NBS as a critical goal towards reforming China＊s statistical system. It was acknowledged that the system of comprehensive reporting, the mainstay of past data gathering, was no longer appropriate to China＊s data needs as it moved towards becoming a functioning market economy. The decision to give high priority to strengthening household survey capabilities was correct and needs to be applauded.
A pilot household survey was conducted in Hangzhou. The aim of the pilot was to test the viability of the reformulated urban and rural surveys and the feasibility of extending of the surveys to all areas of the country. The pilot survey was successful in demonstrating the feasibility of improving household survey operations.
The pilot survey introduced and tested several elements. Foremost amongst these were revised sampling procedures. The pilot replaced the selection of households based on population registers to one based on lists of dwellings. To this end, a new sample frame based on area sampling was developed. Primary Sampling Units (PSU) were created. The revised sampling approach has led to better but still partial coverage of the floating population. Under the pilot scheme, the two surveys remained distinct, with separate questionnaires. Full organizational integration of the RSO and the USO has yet to be achieved. Indeed, this was not tested in the Hangzhou experiment. However, NBS management is considering the integration of the two survey teams.
During the course of the pilot exercise, the questionnaires used in the two surveys were revised. There was an attempt to harmonize seventeen core indicators on income and expenditures. Thus, the conceptual framework for urban-rural harmonization has been introduced, and the remaining work involves fine-tuning of concepts and harmonization.
Consultations with main users is an important element in establishing survey content, the RSO and USO have recognized that the System of National Accounts (SNA) and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of the NBS are important users of household survey data and consulted with the appropriate Departments to develop the pilot survey content.
RSO/USO have concluded, through consultation with the National Accounts Department, that there is a huge demand for household survey data for the purpose of GDP accounting and input-output table formulation, especially regarding transfer payments by governments to individuals, housing consumption (rents) and spending on services. The pilot survey covered some of the of the data requirements identified by the national account compilers. Further efforts will be needed to identify remaining gaps; corrective measures taken to strengthening, in the future, concepts like non-cash transactions (in-kind production, own production, goods and services produced for barter) and net business income. Actions taken or planned for the future will contribute to better serving Chinese data needs.
However, much more needs to be done to achieve full integration i.e. similar questionnaires, similar collection methods, and fuller data harmonization. There is evidence that suggests that the experience gained during the pilot test and the close cooperation that was required between the USO and RSO to develop and implement the pilot test will facilitate full integration in the future. An important development recently announced by the Commissioner, is the submission to the government, by the NBS, of a proposal for the merger of the Urban, Rural and Economic Survey Organizations, into a general survey office.
Sub-project I: Perpetual Inventory Method
Consisted of the development and implementation of a system to estimate capital stock and depreciation based on the Perpetual Inventory Method (PIM). This has resulted in new estimates of capital stock in the public sector.
Sub-project II: Residential Rents
New methods for calculating the contribution of the real estate sector have led to the availability of revised value added series for this sub-sector. These estimates are an improvement over existing estimates which grossly understate the contribution of the real estate sector to GDP.
Sub-project III: Benchmarking and Seasonal Adjustment
Practical training was provided to the NBS Department of National Accounts staff on benchmarking and seasonal adjustment, resulting in the successful adjustment for 44 series. Another important issue dealt with was the accounting of the effect of the changing date of the Chinese New Year, for which procedures were developed.
Survey Skill Development
The object was to provide the NBS with the tools to train their employees in survey-taking skills, in order to upgrade the practical skills of the statistical workers in the Chinese statistical system. Under this component of SIMP, a training manual containing the basic concepts and practical skills involved in the design and implementation of household sample surveys together with a training video were produced. These were considered essential tools to permit the Survey Skills course to be offered to a large number of people throughout the Chinese statistical system. SIMP financed the acquisition of audio-video equipment for use in distance learning in anticipation of training 30,000 statistical workers. The training material (manual and video) was very well received by the NBS, and has been used more extensively than had originally been intended, reaching beyond the original target group, encompassing an additional 60,000 trainees, for a total of 90,000. This is a commendable use of distance learning techniques.
NBS has been developing statistical databases since 1988. However, some of these databases were no longer being maintained for a variety of reasons which include: changes in technology; changes in the underlying statistical programs; lack of support from statistical subject matter areas, etc.
In recent years, the NBS Computer Centre has developed and continues to maintain the NBS Internet Web site. Available on this Web site are static tables generated from the statistical databases that are still being maintained. Also available on the Web site is a Monthly Statistics Database which is the only database directly accessible via the Internet.
All other databases developed by NBS were only available internally and were not linked to each other. These internal databases contain, in varying degrees of detail, statistical data, spanning differing reference periods and providing variable amounts of metadata. NBS has found it difficult to manage and maintain this multiplicity of databases in their various versions and formats. The Computer Centre did not have a comprehensive databank, lacked the experience in designing and developing a databank system, and as well, lacked the equipment to adequately maintain and further develop such a system.
NBS management recognized that a comprehensive statistical databank would allow NBS to effectively manage and disseminate its aggregate data holdings to users. NBS further recognized that a well structured, well maintained, and up-to-date statistical databank is a prerequisite for efficient and timely dissemination.
Under SIMP, the Databank Project was designed to improve the capabilities of NBS in managing and disseminating its aggregate data holdings through the development of a data warehouse. Statistics Canada＊s involvement was to define and contribute the necessary foundations by which a statistical databank system could be constructed in order to fit into NBS＊ dissemination strategy via the Internet. To this end, Statistics Canada transferred technical, operational and project management knowledge to NBS in the design, development and operation of such a databank. Statistics Canada＊s CANSIM (Canadian Socio-Economic Information Management System), was used as a comparative benchmark.
The Databank Project has achieved its objectives. NBS, with the assistance provided by Statistics Canada, has developed an operational databank system which has the facilities to:
? store time series and other data series in multi-dimensional tables;
? allow subject matter areas to enter and maintain their statistics; and
? extract and display statistics in both an intranet/internet environment and in a conventional client-server computing environment.
For statistical agencies, metadata usually comprises an inventory of all surveys and other statistical programs, basic information concerning their purposes, their target populations, their questionnaires and the survey methods used, and lists of variables collected in the surveys and their underlying concepts and definitions.
Such detailed information on all surveys and other statistical programs is a prerequisite for the effective management of the overall national statistical system.
Statistics Canada has had such a metadata system operating since the early 1980＊s. During the course of consultations between Statistics Canada and the NBS on the overall Statistical Information Management Project, it was concluded that a comprehensive metadata information system was a priority for the NBS. The statistical system in China has been undergoing fundamental changes as the result of the gradual move from a planned to a market economy. Many of the statistical sources are changing. The NBS needs a tool to manage and assess the impact of these changes on the various surveys and other statistical programs.
The overall objective was to improve the capabilities of the NBS in managing its national statistical system through the development of a comprehensive metadatabase.
The results obtained have exceeded this objective in that the system that was developed covers not only regular surveys but censuses and special topic surveys as well. As a result of delays in the development of the system, however, the initial year of metadata will be 2001 rather than 1998 as initially planned. In addition, the initial load of the 2001 year metadata has been completed for two statistical programs only, of a total of 27, in a test mode, as agreed in a subsequent update to the initial plan. The rest of the initial loads for year 2001 were slated for completion by the NBS by the end of April 2004.
It should be noted that the NBS has taken effective management steps to deal with these delays and development difficulties which is a credit to their determination to see this project through and to the importance they attach to the results.
With the completion of the metadata system, the NBS will move to the forefront of national statistical agencies engaged in implementing such systems in support of their statistical activities, and will be in a position to share its knowledge and experience with others on the same path.
NBS, like other agencies of the Government, has monitored its budget using a cash accounting system developed by the Ministry of Finance. The system records the amount and type of expenditures by categories 每 wages, supplies, and equipment etc. Although providing an electronic means to collate and aggregate expenditure information, the cash accounting system has a number of limitations. These limitations include the inability to link budget forecasts to the tracking of expenditures. Although the system provides information at the organizational unit level (e.g., divisions and branches), it generally does not provide information on specific programs or projects, or track labor costs, or account for overhead or indirect costs as a contribution to total project cost.
In 1998 the Ministry of Finance introduced new financial policies modifying the treatment of budgets and expenditures by all government ministries. The reforms stressed the importance of project accounting to promote efficiency. The 1998 reforms also implemented significant budget reductions. Thus, NBS was simultaneously faced with an increased demand for new statistical information and services and a reduced budget.
Improved budget management was regarded by NBS as a key to enhancing managerial accountability and producing program efficiencies to offset budget reductions. Improved planning and budgeting were viewed as critical to increasing the accuracy of budget estimates and more efficient use of available resources.
The Financial Management Project had two major deliverables. First, the development of a pilot cost accounting system to monitor budgets and expenditures and second, to provide the basis for planning and costing all statistical programs.
The project design was based on Statistics Canada experience in the areas of:
? project planning;
? project accounting;
? practices in corporate strategic planning and corporate finance;
? relationships to governmental funding authorities; and
? program evaluation and review.
The cost accounting system specifications were developed and a Chinese private sector vendor was contracted to undertake software development.
It is noteworthy that since the early stages of the project, officials from the Ministry of Finance have paid particular attention to its development. Interest was sufficiently high to warrant their presence at some of the NBS 每 Statistics Canada meetings. There is a possibility that the system will be adopted by other ministries. At a minimum, it appears that the system will serve as a model for budget and expenditure applications to be developed by the central government. In addition, the Financial Management System has received external professional recognition. In 2002, the system was reviewed by academics, researchers and statisticians on the awards committee of the Chinese Association of Statistics. It was highly ranked and accorded a class two award.
NBS is committed to the system being implemented across the Chinese statistical system. It is expected that the system will be extended to cover all provinces; ultimately it is expected that it will be linked via a wide area computer network with 63 locations in all provinces. The unavailability of adequate infrastructure at some locations may impede rapid deployment.
The initial training provided by Statistics Canada to twenty personnel from the NBS and Shandong and Shanghai statistical bureaux on project planning and budgeting techniques has been well assimilated. NBS has incorporated these topics into training programs for its managers.
Managers acknowledged that the new planning techniques are capable of more precisely identifying the tradeoff of cost versus output at the project level and thus improve decision making. This is leading to heightened management focus on the activities and cost structures of individual projects. There also appears to be now a commitment to change the management approach to conform to the concepts of the new Financial Management system.
Introduction of project cost accounting within NBS can be expected to lead to an increased application of matrix management structures to a broad range of national statistical activities. In the longer term, this expansion of matrix management may be even more important than the introduction of project cost accounting to the efficient operation of NBS by way of bringing together resources from the various functional areas (e.g., survey operations, survey design, and system development) to work on fixed-duration development projects or cyclical survey work. More importantly, the new system and the associated training appears to be having an impact on the organizational culture in the NBS.
Human Resources Management
Following initial consultations between NBS and Statistics Canada, it was concluded that NBS would benefit from assistance in the enhancement and development of a number of human resources management activities. Three areas included: interview strategies and techniques for promotion; techniques for dealing with employees with performance issues; and, methods for quantifying performance feedback.
NBS was anxious to adopt processes that permitted a more transparent evaluation of employee performance. Existing practices did not involve setting concrete performance objectives nor were techniques available for managers to provide performance feedback to employees. This was particularly evident for employees experiencing problems or who were deemed to be poor performers. Under this sub-component, Statistics Canada organized a workshop that provided managers with the tools to improve the performance of those employees whose performance was less than satisfactory. The workshop program sought to improve the effectiveness of managers by training them to set objectives, coach employees, deal with conflict, and provide constructive feedback. NBS staff participated in one of Statistics Canada＊s workshops entitled ※Effective Leaders/Effective Employees§, a course offered to middle level managers at Statistics Canada that is designed to provide managers with practical tools to help them set objectives and provide performance feedback to employees. Based on this initial exposure, NBS has developed a workshop based on the Canadian concepts and teaching methods. The instructor＊s manual was completed in 2002 and the first workshop was successfully delivered to 49 director-level employees in November of 2002. NBS intends to continue presenting this workshop to all new directors.
Performance evaluation of staff at NBS involved receiving anecdotal input from colleagues, superiors and subordinates. NBS recognized that this process and the information collected were inadequate as an input to the management of promotions and salaries. It sought to develop a more reliable, transparent and quantitative process. Statistics Canada recommended the development of a new feedback questionnaire, ※the 360-degree questionnaire§, that would quantify this type of input and would involve the use of standardized criteria. Human resource professionals from Statistics Canada worked with a NBS team in the development, testing and finalization of this new questionnaire. The new approach has been used for the 2003 annual performance evaluation process. NBS plans to use the 360-degree questionnaire as a reference tool to complement other sources of information to achieve the following goals:
? Supervisors will use the information from the new questionnaire when providing feedback to employees to complement the information from other sources.
? The information gained from the questionnaire will be used indirectly as input to the promotion process.
? The information will be used for training purposes to identify weaknesses and to determine appropriate training required.
NBS was not confident that the most suitable employees were the ones being promoted. They sought interview techniques that would be more objective and effective in identifying the most qualified candidates. NBS asked for assistance in developing more standardized and effective selection and interview practices.
A Human Resource team from Statistics Canada, together with psychologists from the Canadian Public Service Commission's Personnel Psychology Centre, consulted with an NBS team on the use of various assessment tools. NBS is now able to design interview questions and to structure interviews. Feedback from both candidates and senior managers indicated a high level of satisfaction with the new techniques. The promotion process is now viewed to be fair and effective by all involved.
Thus all of the three areas of focus have been successfully dealt with. NBS senior management has been extremely receptive to the new ideas presented in each of the implementations.
In addition to the content of the projects themselves, the ※Effective Leaders / Effective Employees§ workshop also introduced a number of new teaching methodologies to the NBS Human Resources team. Prior to the commencement of these projects, this team was not familiar with the gamut of training methods that were available to them. The team was very interested in these new teaching methods, have incorporated them into their workshop, and will now be in a position to vary training methods used in future courses.
The Ministry of Personnel has also shown interest in those developments.
Statistics Canada considers its cooperation with the NBS to have been a rewarding experience. As we worked together, we learned from each other. The success of the program stemmed from two fundamental sources. One was the human element. The initial investment of learning about each other＊s organization, programs and culture resulted in a more deft execution of the program. The devotion and cooperative attitude of the participants was demonstrated throughout. The other source of success was the introduction of the Principles of Cooperation. These provided the conceptual background to the subsequent Project Initiation Agreements, which not only defined outputs more clearly, but also a more effective approach in their achievement, reflecting the spirit of result-based management principles. The results are such that the NBS can not only build on them to expand work in the program areas, but they can also serve as the basis of potential future cooperation.