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Economy grew 9.8% in 2005 - vice minister
Updated: 2006-01-02 09:00

BEIJING, Jan 1 (Reuters) - China's economy grew 9.8 percent in 2005, a vice minister was quoted as saying on Sunday, revising up an earlier estimate and again confounding forecasts that the country's racing output growth had begun to slow at last.

The higher growth rate, which may not be the final official figure, builds on the latest estimates of China's 2004 gross domestic product, which the statistics office hoisted by one sixth last month.

Fresh figures from the tax office also painted a picture of an economy beating expectations, with 2005 revenue growth almost double the budget estimate.

Ou Xinqian, a vice minister responsible for the National Development and Reform Commission, issued the new GDP growth figure ahead of the release of the statistics office's 2005 estimates due late this month.

"The commission's previous estimate for last year's economic growth was 9.4 percent," the official news agency Xinhua said, citing Ou. "This figure was adjusted according to the newly revised GDP (of) 2004."

The commission, like other government agencies and private economists, had expected the economy to show a little moderation in 2005 after growing 9.5 percent in both 2003 and 2004.

It was unclear whether Ou's growth figure of 9.8 percent represented the official estimate of the government statistician or was merely a preliminary and independent estimate from the commission, China's top economic planning authority.

Separate government figures on Sunday showed tax collections from the booming economy had surged far beyond the budget forecast last year, rising 20 percent to a record 3,087 billion yuan ($382 billion).

The government had budgeted for a rise of just 11 percent to 2.93 trillion yuan, leaving a 2005 deficit of 300 billion yuan.

Although the State Administration of Taxation, announcing the figures, did not say what the final fiscal balance had been, the above-budget rise in tax was enough to wipe out most of the forecast deficit if spending was on target.
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