BEIJING: China’s government intends to curb the worsening environmental and social costs of development as it seeks to rebalance the nation’s fast-growing economy, Premier Wen Jiabao said Monday.
Wen said China’s economy was projected to grow “around eight percent” this year, down from 10.7 percent in 2006, as the government stepped up efforts to achieve sustainable economic expansion.
“We must strengthen and improve macro-economic regulation,” Wen said as he delivered his annual work report to the nearly 3,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress at the start of their 12-day session.
“The focus of this work is to keep the scale of fixed asset investment and credit under control and to promote overall balance between total supply and total demand.”
Wen has in previous years announced similar growth projections, only to see the actual number far exceed the initial target, and he acknowledged in Monday’s speech that the forecast for 2007 may again prove inaccurate.
“Because of changes in the domestic and international economic environments, including the markets, the real GDP growth rate will vary a certain amount from the projected target,” he said.
Another factor for the official target being missed has been wayward provincial and regional authorities ignoring Beijing’s calls for restraint in pursuit of lightning development.
Wen insisted on Monday that officials around the country should take into account the environment and social impacts of economic growth.
“The pattern of economic growth is inefficient. This can be seen most clearly in excessive energy consumption and serious environmental pollution,” he said.
“We must attach greater importance to saving energy and resources, protecting the environment and using land intensively.
“We must make conserving energy, decreasing energy consumption, protecting the environment and using land intensively the breakthrough point and main fulcrum for changing the pattern of economic growth.”
Wen’s call for a stronger effort to protect the environment came after China missed its highly publicised targets to improve energy efficiency and diminish pollution discharges last year.
Wen and Chinese President Hu Jintao have made “building a harmonious society” a major platform of their rule, and the premier also said more must be done to ensure the less well-off in society benefited from development.
“We must put people first, promote faster progress in social programmes, work energetically to... safeguard social fairness and justice, and ensure that all of the people share in the fruits of reform and development.”
Wen also said authorities would target key sectors of runaway growth, such as the real estate industry, in an effort to slow the expansion of the world’s fourth biggest economy.
“We will intensify efforts to ensure order in the real estate market (and) strengthen oversight of it,” he said.
“Local governments at all levels must assume their full share of responsibility for regulation and oversight of local real estate markets.”
In other macro-economic numbers, Wen said the nation’s budget deficit would be 245 billion yuan (31.5 billion dollars) in 2007, down 50 billion yuan from last year.
China’s inflation rate should remain below three percent in 2007, after the consumer price index rose 1.5 percent last year, Wen said,