Thursday, 22nd May 2008
Tim Buckley Owen
As if more evidence were needed of the eastern tilt of business’s centre of gravity (see http://www.vivavip.com/go/e6181 for the background), now comes a survey from IRN Research reporting double digit annual growth in Asia Pacific business information. It’s certainly spectacular – but it may also mask some underlying problems.
Japan is by far the largest market, with India and Korea following up, IRN reports in its Asia Pacific Business Information Market 2008 (£475 – background at http://digbig.com/4wyba). China is growing fast too, but is reluctant to spend heavily on external information services and also faces some restrictions on the use of non-Chinese services in the country.
User reluctance to commit to external services is a challenge generally for information providers across the region – as is a lack of transparency in corporate and official sectors in some countries, limiting the amount and quality of information available. IRN believes that this is beginning to change – although there do still seem to be plenty of risks posed by dodgy data.
China has displayed unprecedented openness in the aftermath of the tragic earthquakes in its Sichuan province – but in business and economics old habits die hard, prompting the Economist magazine to focus recently http://digbig.com/4wybb on what it terms China’s ‘untrustworthy economic numbers’. Local officials have an incentive to inflate growth numbers because promotion depends upon economic performance, the Economist points out – but there’s nevertheless a view that China’s National Bureau of Statistics may actually be understating growth because it’s worried about the economy overheating.
Fixed asset investment, inflation and labour market figures are among those subjected to scrutiny and found wanting – and the need for improvement is urgent. ‘Only a madman,’ the Economist opines, ‘would drive a juggernaut at full speed with a faulty speedometer, a cracked rear-view mirror and a misty windscreen.’
In truth, though, we don’t necessarily order these things much better in the west. To add to the credit rating industry’s current woes, the FT now reports http://digbig.com/4wybc that Moody’s has initiated an external review of its ratings of $4bn of complex debt products, after revelations that the agency had awarded incorrect ratings because of a bug in its computer models.
And it’s not just that the ratings were wrong. According to documents seen by the FT http://digbig.com/4wybd some senior staff within the credit agency knew early in 2007 that products rated the previous year with triple A ratings as a result of the computer coding error should have been up to four notches lower.
Past data offers no guarantee of future performance of course. But it does nevertheless look as if information professionals should be taking careful note of the past sins and omissions of the number crunchers – and issuing appropriate caveats.
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