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Investment growth slows down
( 2003-11-18 22:37) (China Daily)

China's fixed asset investment growth slowed down in October, mainly due to the launching of fewer new projects in the month.

October's fixed asset investment stood at 395.4 billion yuan (US$47.6 billion), rising 22.6 per cent compared with the same month last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.

The growth rate was 3.9 percentage points lower than September, the bureau said.

Growth was 26.5 per cent in September, 30.7 per cent in August and 32.3 per cent in July, it said earlier.

Zhou Jingtong, a senior economist with the State Information Centre, said the slowdown was normal, because fixed asset investment usually grew at a lower rate in the fourth quarter every year due to less new projects started.

In October, 9,056 new projects were started, a fall of 17.8 per cent compared with September.

Government efforts to prevent the economy from overheating also seemed to have an effect, said a bureau official who declined to be identified.

The central bank has increased bank reserve requirements and tightened rules on loans for luxury homes to curb over-investment, the official added.

Fixed assets investment grew year-on-year by 30.2 per cent to 3 trillion yuan (US$367 billion) in the first 10 months of 2003, the bureau said.

Of the total investment, 1.59 trillion yuan (US$192 billion) was spent on infrastructure projects, a year-on-year increase of 28.6 per cent.

Spending on renovation and upgrading rose year-on-year by 34.1 per cent to 591.1 billion yuan (US$71.2 billion), while that on real estate development rose 31.3 per cent to 736.7 billion yuan (US$88.8 billion).

Economists have expressed concern that fixed asset investment could cause the country's fast-growing economy to overheat.

Fan Gang, director of the National Economic Research Institute, said an overheating of some industries including cars, steel, aluminium and cement could have a serious economic impact.

"If it is not cooled, investment fever in some industries will heavily affect China's robust economic growth,'' Fan said.

Excessive growth in some sectors is putting a strain on transportation and power suppliers, driving up the prices of raw materials and damaging industries across the country, he said.

Many of the newest projects rely on outdated technology and equipment, affecting their ability to control pollution, he said. They also have a tendency to consume high levels of energy.

Lin Yueqin, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the automobile sector is a typical example of this unpredictable situation, with existing producers competing with each other to expand their production capacity.

Small-scale and weak independent development capabilities were some of the problems, with about 70 to 123 plants capable of producing whole vehicles manufacturing fewer than 10,000 units per year.

Meanwhile, local governments are all eager to launch new auto-related projects, Lin said.

Small iron and steel works, which were previously closed by local governments because of pollution and inefficiency, had resumed production.

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