Investment cools slightly in 2006

By Zhi Ming (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-26 06:50

Fixed asset investment increased by 24 percent year-on-year last year, two percentage points less than a year earlier.

Investment growth has slowed in recent years as the authorities have introduced measures to keep the economy from coming to a boil.

Urban fixed asset investment grew at a year-on-year pace of 24.5 percent, 2.7 percentage points less than a year earlier. The slowing trend was especially obvious last month, when the rate was 13.8 percent.

Overall investment in fixed assets like property and infrastructure grew by 29.8 percent in the first half of last year. The figure was 25.7 percent in 2005 and 26.4 percent in 2004.

Xie Fuzhan, director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), attributed the slower pace to the tightening measures the government had put in place to rein in areas like real estate investment, lending and market entry.

"The structure of investment has also improved," he said, adding that investment in some industries suffering from over-capacity had also slowed.

However, the large amount of excess liquidity in the economy has also put pressure on investment growth. Xie said it remains a serious problem for Chinese economy.

China's broad measure of the money supply, or M2, which reflects the overall state of money supply in the country, grew by 16.9 percent year on year last year, which was slightly less than the 2005 level. Considering the huge amount of money already in the market in 2005, however, the growth rate was still impressive, analysts said.

Despite the slowdown in fixed asset investment growth last year, the current level could still cause problems.

Liu Wei, dean of Peking University's School of Economics, calculated that a fixed asset growth rate of 23 percent would be appropriate for the Chinese economy. Any more than that could squeeze out consumption and have an adverse effect on the economy.

The central economic work conference last December called for balanced growth in investment and consumption.

The downward trend of late 2006 is expected to continue into this year, at least in the first quarter, economists predicted.

Song Guoqing, an economist with Peking University's China Center for Economic Research, said the growth rate of fixed asset investment would definitely be lower than last year.

"It would be considered high if it hit 20 percent," Song said.

Wang Jian, secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomy, told a recent economic forum that the figure in the second half of this year could even be as low as 15 percent.

Investment in property development, a major engine of the country's economic growth, increased by 21.8 percent last year, or 0.9 percentage points more than the previous year, according to the NBS.

Still, in some big cities, investment growth seems uncontrollable despite the tightening measures.

In Beijing, for example, investment in property development accounted for more than half of all investment, according to a municipal government spokesperson.

Although the central government has taken a series of policies to stabilize house prices, property prices still increased by 5.5 percent in 70 major cities last year.

(China Daily 01/26/2007 page4)

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