China needs to change economic model: Li
BEIJING CHINA cannot delay tough economic reforms, Vice - Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday, underscoring the top leadership’s push for market-based change after the sacking last week of an ambitious provincial leader who wanted a bigger state role in the economy.
Li, widely expected to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier in a leadership transition that begins later this year, promised flexible policies to keep growth brisk and prices stable, with a focus on boosting domestic demand and pursuing structural reforms to make growth more stable and balanced.
“China has reached a crucial period in changing its economic model and (change) cannot be delayed.
Reforms have entered a tough stage,” Li said, echoing comments made by Wen last week.
“We will make policies more targeted, flexible and forward-looking to maintain relatively fast economic growth and keep price levels basically stable,” Li said in a speech at an economic policy conference, attended by top Chinese officials, the head of the IMF and dozens of foreign business leaders.
He said China would “deepen reforms on taxes, the financial sector, prices, income distribution and seek breakthroughs in key areas to let market forces play a bigger role in resource allocation”.
Li’s renewed emphasis on reform-led growth comes after Wen said slower growth and bolder political reform must be embraced to keep the world’s second largest economy from faltering and to spread wealth more evenly, promising to use his last year in power to attack discontent that he warned could end in chaos.
Wen told a news conference at the end of the National People’s Congress (NPC) that growth would be made more resilient to external pressures, domestic property and inflation risks deflated and 10.7 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) in debt racked up by local governments dealt with, while also promoting political change.
He cut China’s official 2012 growth target to 7.5 percent, down from the 8 percent targeted in each of the last eight years, aiming to create leeway to deliver reform of items including subsidies, without igniting inflation.
China’s annual rate of inflation cooled to 3.2 percent in February, below the government’s 4 percent target for the first time in more than a year. But policymakers remain particularly sensitive to elevated commodity prices, given China’s huge imports of raw materials.
Zhang Ping, head of the country’s top planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, told the Sunday conference that economic policies maintaining relatively fast growth were key to the country’s future.
“First of all, we need to maintain steady and relatively fast economic growth — development is the key for resolving all problems in China,” Zhang said.
The government would maintain prudent monetary and pro-active fiscal policies, and stand ready to fine-tune settings — a consistent refrain from China’s leaders since the autumn of 2011.
The show of unity over pro-market reform took on new significance last week when China’s central leadership moved to bolster control over the southwest cityprovince of Chongqing after ousting its contentious but popular chief, Bo Xilai.