Policies may be eased to ride out turmoil

Updated: 2011-08-12 09:33

By Wei Tian (China Daily)

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BEIJING - As China's top officials called for "flexibility" in macroeconomic regulation, the country could resort to "targeted easing" to help it through the fallout of the current global financial turmoil, analysts said.

On Tuesday, Premier Wen Jiabao told a meeting of the State Council that China will improve the flexibility of its economic policies and make them more targeted and "farsighted".

Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, earlier also called for flexible monetary policies and urged "further optimization of the credit structure" aiming at introducing more financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as affordable and low-rent housing projects, according the bank's website.

Zhou's statement was echoed by Liu Mingkang, the nation's top banking regulator, who has said that the nation should implement "differential supervision" over lending quotas and that the overall volume of loans to SMEs should increase at a rate "no less than the average level" without giving details, according to a report in the China Securities Journal.

The government has set a target of between 7 trillion yuan ($1.09 trillion) and 7.5 trillion for full-year new-yuan lending. With nearly 60 percent of the target already reached during the first half, and July inflation hitting a three-year high, liquidity was expected to be further limited in coming months, but the outbreak of global financial turmoil triggered by Standard and Poor's downgrade of US credit rating may see policy becoming looser.

On Monday, a report by Goldman Sachs Group estimated that China's new-yuan lending in July was approximately 530 billion yuan, much lower than June's 633.9 billion yuan.

"There will probably be a "structural adjustment" of monetary policy in the second half amid the uncertain global economic situation," said Li Jianjun, assistant dean of the School of Finance at the Central University of Finance and Economics.

China has raised its interest rates three times and the reserve-requirement ratio for banks six times this year to limit the role of excessive liquidity in stoking inflation. "However, the tightening policies have also affected real economic growth," Li said.

Recent indicators, such as industrial output and fixed-asset investment, have indicated that growth momentum in the world's second-largest economy's is slowing. The ongoing global financial uncertainty makes it more likely that the country will take some countermeasures to ensure stable growth, analysts said.

Zhou Dewen, chairman of the Wenzhou SME Development Association, wrote in a recent article that "40 percent of SMEs in China will have to shut down if their financing environment does not improve", referring to the fact that many of those small companies do not have easy access to bank loans.

Meanwhile, at least 1.3 trillion yuan is needed for the country to meet its goal of building 10 million units of affordable housing in 2011, creating more need for "targeted loosening", analysts said.