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China growth to slow

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 6.03.12
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Beijing, March 5 (Reuters): Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao cut his nation’s 2012 growth target to an eight-year low of 7.5 per cent and made boosting consumer demand the year’s first priority as Beijing looks to wean the economy off its reliance on external demand and foreign capital.

He lowered the target from a longstanding annual goal of 8 per cent, a move investors anticipated so that Beijing has some economic leeway to rebalance the economy and defuse price pressures in the run up to a leadership change later this year.

Lower growth will allow Beijing to reform key price controls without causing an inflation spike, so monetary policy can stay broadly expansionary to ensure a steady flow of credit to the small and medium-sized firms the government wants to encourage.       

“We aim to promote steady and robust economic development, keep prices stable, and guard against financial risks by keeping the total money and credit supply at an appropriate level, and taking a cautious and flexible approach,” Jiabao said.

The premier named “expanding consumer demand” as his first priority for 2012, when the ruling Communist Party must also navigate a leadership handover that will send Jiabao and President Hu Jintao into retirement in 2013.

“We will improve policies that encourage consumption,” Wen told nearly 3,000 delegates of the Communist Party-controlled legislature.

“We will vigorously adjust income distribution, increase the incomes of low- and middle-income groups, and enhance people’s ability to consume,” said Wen.

His annual state-of-the-nation report to parliament dwelled on the institutional and income barriers the government must break to build a more balanced economy that relies less on exports and shares more wealth with hundreds of millions of poor farmers and migrant workers who are reluctant to spend.

Jiabao and Jintao have vowed to wean the economy off dependence on exports, smoke-stack industries and government-backed infrastructure, and promote balanced growth that will elevate the incomes and spending of farmers and workers.