7.5% quality-growth target set
Updated: 2013-03-08 07:10
By Wu Wencong, Chen Jia and Lu Chang (China Daily)
Chinese premier emphasizes importance of environmental protection and social reforms
Premier Wen Jiabao has set a growth target of 7.5 percent for China's economy this year, stressing the quality of that growth in terms of people's living conditions is important as well as the amount.
In delivering what will be his last Government Work Report at the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing on Tuesday, Wen said there would be a greater focus on domestic consumption and economic reforms in 2013, but also on issues such as environmental protection, food safety, narrowing the income gap and a fairer household registration system.
The growth target is the same as last year's, when GDP increased by 7.8 percent from a year earlier, a 13-year low. Economic growth in 2011 was 9.3 percent and 10.4 percent in 2010.
An inflation target of 3.5 percent was set, compared with 4 percent for last year. The consumer price index, a key gauge of inflation, rose by 2.6 percent year-on-year in 2012. In 2011, it rose 5.4 percent.
Li Ruogu, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of China, said that the target of 7.5 percent would not be difficult to achieve as the right policies are in place.
"We won't see a big fluctuation in the CPI this year because the government has put more emphasis on fighting inflation," he said.
Li Yining, an economist at Peking University, agreed that economic growth would be about 8 percent. "But the important thing is to improve the quality of that growth."
Although Wen emphasized that development still holds the key to all problems faced by the country, he also highlighted the negative effect it has had on the environment.
With dense smog and haze covering more than 10 provinces five times in January, and half of the country's groundwater polluted as revealed by media reports in February, environmental issues have triggered constant anxiety.
"The government should take solid preventive and regulating measures to promote changes in the mode of production and lifestyle; should be determined to solve prominent environmental pollution problems that concern the public interest, such as airborne, water or soil pollution; and should give hope to the public with practical action - improving environmental quality and safeguarding people's health," Wen said.
Cao Xianghong, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and former vice-president of China Petrochemical Corp, or Sinopec, said: "Though energy consumption per unit of GDP has fallen by 17.2 percent in the past five years, as mentioned in Premier Wen's report, total energy consumption that continues to grow still poses a threat to environmental protection, especially the prevention and control of airborne pollution."
While attending a group discussion at on Tuesday afternoon, Health Minister Chen Zhu said: "Environmental health, such as clean air and water, is the foundation and backbone of public health."
Chen said China has seen several so-called cancer villages emerge in recent years, villages that see an unusually high incidence of cancers possibly caused by pollution.
Qin Dahe, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC and meteorological expert, said: "The requirement for both development and environmental protection means that the country must change its mode of economic development."
In his speech, Wen stressed the importance of boosting domestic demand as a long-term strategy vital to supporting economic development, and called for income distribution reform and the narrowing of the income gap.
He also urged quicker reform of the household registration system to help advance urbanization, which is viewed as an historic task in China's modernization and an engine to drive domestic demand and economic growth.
"To advance urbanization, the government should register eligible rural workers as permanent urban residents in an orderly manner, and expand the coverage of basic public services in urban areas to migrant workers and other permanent residents," he said.
Wen also advised the new government to keep large cities at an appropriate scale to spur development in surrounding areas and to strengthen the ability of small and medium-sized cities to develop industries, provide public services and increase employment.
In 2012, the urban population accounted for 52.57 percent of the population, up 1.3 percentage points from a year earlier, and the rate is expected to rise to 53.37 percent in 2013, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
But while bigger cities increase consumption, they also draw in large number of farmers as migrant workers, most of them without hukou, or household registration, who are often excluded from social services and other benefits.
A 2013 report by Renmin University of China on migrant workers shows they feel lonely, and as an isolated group, seldom interact with urban society.
Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the Leading Group on Rural Work of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said migrant workers should be covered by the urban public service network in the fields of housing, employment and education, which needs the support of local governments.
Wen also referred often to food safety while delivering the report, conceding that the country still faces many challenges on food and drug safety, and suggesting the system for regulation and supervision be reformed and improved.
Also set in Wen's report were a fiscal deficit target of 1.2 trillion yuan ($190 billion; 146.2 billion euros) and a 13 percent growth in the broad money supply, or M2.
"Our proactive fiscal policy should play a bigger role in ensuring steady growth, advance reform and benefit the people," Wen said.
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Zhu Zhe, Shan Juan and Wang Xiaotian contributed to this story.
(China Daily 03/08/2013 page3)