BEIJING -- As China's consumers prepare for the annual Spring Festival shopping spree, the government on Wednesday moved to restrict price hikes on key household commodities, including on grain, edible oils, meat, milk, eggs and liquefied petroleum gas.
It was the latest in a series of moves since July last year to cool surging inflation, which has stayed well above the official critical mark of four percent and shot to an 11-year high of 6.9 percent in November. These included:
-- July 6, 2007. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announces minimum procurement prices for wheat at the 2006 level after annual production subsidies for farmers are set at 42.7 billion yuan (5.88 billion US dollars), up 63 percent or 16.5 billion yuan (2.27 billion US dollars) from the previous year. The NDRC, the country's top economic planner, explains the move is "conducive to leading a market expectation over stable prices for grain crops and non-staple products".
-- July 30, 2007. When the consumer price index surges to 5.6 percent, the NDRC forbids local governments whose CPI figures exceed official targets by a large margin from taking any measures that might raise prices unless for the purposes of environmental protection and energy conservation within the year. It urges caution with the exercise of administrative interventions, stressing the role of the market in product pricing and the welfare of low-income families.
-- August 2, 2007. A government circular initiates a national overhaul of price rigging and profiteering for major foodstuffs including grain, edible vegetable oils, pork, beef, mutton, and poultry.
-- August 4, 2007. The NDRC orders PetroChina and Sinopec to step up processing of crude oil, to restrict exports of crude oil and take all means to secure domestic market supply.
-- August 6, 2007. Another NDRC circular requires local authorities to strengthen price monitoring and alerts on the supply and sales of pork, grain crops, edible oils, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
-- September 10, 2007. A second national price overhaul ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day holidays is jointly launched by the NDRC, the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture, the State Administration of Industry and Commerce and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and quarantine.
-- September 21, 2007. After the CPI hits 6.5 percent in August, the government auctions off more rice and wheat from official stockpiles, releases the corn reserve into the market to stabilize prices for feed, temporarily cuts the import tariff on soybeans from three percent to one percent, releases the pork reserve at below-market prices, raises minimum subsistence stipends for urban people and subsidizes college canteens.
-- September 27, 2007. All the prescription drugs, OTC drugs and anesthetic related medicines are subjected to government pricing administration as part of a medical reform.
-- October 24, 2007. The NDRC urges PetroChina and SinoPec to make a secure supply of liquefied petroleum gas a priority, prohibiting them from raising prices arbitrarily and vowing to name and shame enterprises that engage in profiteering.
-- October 31, 2007. The government announces rises in gasoline, diesel oil and aviation kerosene prices by 500 yuan per ton from November 1 to close the gap between soaring international crude and domestic oil prices.
-- November 5, 2007. Executives of China's major edible oil manufacturers and guild leaders are summoned to Beijing for a closed door meeting at which the government requires them to step up production to rein in the soaring market prices after a dozen people are injured and killed in crowds rushing to buy edible oils at marked down prices.
-- November 28, 2007. Six gas stations are publicly blacklisted for allegedly profiteering while Sinopec and PetroChina are again urged to step up production of refined oil products.
-- December 3, 2007. At an annual economic conference, the government lists its 2008 economic priority as preventing inflationary pressure from spreading across the board and the economy overheating.
-- December 4, 2007. An NDRC statement identifies inflation as a problem facing a dozen other countries besides China and details countermeasures taken by foreign governments, including financial means, price curbs, subsidies for low-income earners, export controls and import facilitation.
-- Dec 5. 2007. The State Council, China's cabinet, promulgates a package of policies to curb prices, including raising retirement pensions in 2008, increasing stipends for urban and rural poor and minimum wages, expanding the coverage of minimum subsistence allowances, increasing medical assistance, boosting housing supply, freezing train fares pre- and post-Spring Festival, but allowing moderate fare rises in road transport.
-- December 25, 2007. Another national overhaul to curb excess price hikes ahead of the New Year and the Spring Festival kicks, targeting grain crops, edible oil, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
-- January 9, 2008. A State Council executive meeting stipulates temporary price freezes on gasoline, natural gas and electricity prices, as well as freezes on urban gas, water, heating and public transport charges.