Economic Watch

Good year-end 'to secure 7.5% growth target'

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-03-10 01:08

As positive economic factors are likely to emerge in the second half of this year, the 7.5 percent growth target set by the government will be met, scholars at the nation's top economic planning agency said on Sunday.

"The positive factors will build up as time goes by. The economy will become better in the second half of this year, and guarantee the realization of the target for the whole year," said Song Li, deputy director of the Institute of Economic Research under the National Development and Reform Commission.

His remark came as some economists have become increasingly doubtful whether China could achieve the 7.5 percent GDP growth set in the Government Work Report. China faces several challenges, including massive excess capacity in some industries, mounting local government debt, slowing growth in property prices and lurking risks in the financial sector.

Premier Li Keqiang, NDRC chairman Xu Shaoshi and Finance Minister Lou Jiwei have reiterated their confidence in the Chinese economy over the past few days.

According to Song, two major factors for growth are the improvement in external demand and the reform dividend, whose effects will be more salient in the second half.

China's exports in January beat estimates to rise 10.6 percent year-on-year, but plunged 18.1 percent in February from a year earlier, adding uncertainty to the sector.

Li promised in his work report on Wednesday to push ahead a slew of reform initiatives, including further cutting administrative review and approval items for businesses, pushing forward hybrid ownership in the State-owned sector and reform of the fiscal and taxation system.

Sun Xuegong, another researcher at the Institute of Economic Research under the NDRC, said structural reform and growth are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and reform requires a certain level of economic growth.

"There is already a lot of talk that when growth is too fast it is not a good time for reform. But what has not been discussed much is when growth slows too much, it is not good for reform either, as decelerated growth and a stagnant living standard will curb the need for industrial upgrading," Sun said.

Another concern among economists is that growth will be dragged down by slowing investment, because fixed-asset investment accounted for about half of the country's growth in the past few years. The NDRC's report this year has already lowered its expectation for fixed-asset investment to 17.5 percent, down from 18 percent a year ago.

Song acknowledged there are many negative factors in investment, including a glut of capacity in some industries, and rising borrowing costs. But he also pointed out a number of "bright spots" for investment.

One is the fast growing investment in strategic and emerging industries, such as biotechnology, new materials and alternative energy.

For traditional industries, there is also enormous demand for technological renovation and equipment upgrading.

In the long term, the rising of information technology and the service sector is also one of the bright spots, Song said.

For the property sector, he said demand remained robust in many county-level cities as massive numbers of migrant workers, after earning money in large cities, buy houses in their hometowns.

Separately, the consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, increased 2 percent year-on-year in February, down from 2.5 percent in January, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Sunday.