Upbeat annual assessment

Updated: 2012-03-07 08:06

(China Daily)

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Premier Wen Jiabao opened the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress on March 5 with an upbeat assessment of the state of the nation, saying that the threats posed by bad local government debt and soaring real estate prices were under control, that the economy was robust and that "the people's well-being is improving", says an article in the New York Times. Excerpts:

Premier Wen Jiabao predicted a steep slowdown in growth in 2012, from last year's 9.2 percent annual increase in GDP to 7.5 percent in 2012. Wen said the economy was on a controlled glide to meet the target set last year in the five-year plan to achieve average growth of 7 percent through 2015.

The government this year will focus on raising ordinary people's incomes and rebalancing the national economy to be driven less by investment and exports and more by consumer demand, he indicated.

Wen's annual report is the most substantive event of every opening session of the National People's Congress, the country's legislature. In it, he said that the slowdown in China's growth is coupled with the beginning of a structural transformation toward a consumer-based economy, a change long advocated by economic experts.

Wen's assessment of the state of the nation was nevertheless more sanguine than some recent addresses that have given more emphasis to the dangers posed by the global economic crisis. He dismissed concerns of many economists about the ballooning debt burden of local governments and the potential for a real estate bubble, indicating that both problems were under firm State control.

Wen also said that officials were building the basics of a national health insurance network, with a pilot program under way that includes coverage for lung cancer and 11 other major diseases, and steady increases in pension benefits and the minimum wage. He also pledged to make it easier for migrant workers to change their official residence to the cities where they live, a crucial move that would allow them to receive government benefits and enroll their children in local schools.

(China Daily 03/07/2012 page10)