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Shanghai performs delicate balancing act
( 2004-01-13 00:47) (China Daily)

Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng Monday vowed to keep economic growth in the municipality at a double-digit rate so unemployment can be slashed and personal incomes will rise.

After a dozen years of double-digit growth, the city is expecting another excellent year with its gross domestic product (GDP) set to top 10 per cent growth, and the registered unemployment rate below 4.6 per cent, Han said in his annual report on the work of the city to the Municipal People's Congress, the city's legislature.

Based on the rapid growth last year which witnessed 11.8 per cent in GDP growth -- the fastest in the past five years -- the city has put forward some vigorous economic targets for the new year to ensure this year's 10 per cent GDP growth.

This year, Shanghai should see an increase of some 500,000 jobs, needing as many as 12 new kinds of posts that will require special skills from employees like the forest protection work and the security guards in residential communities.

"These posts will help place some 60,000 people this year, and we hope it will help 100,000 people in 2005,'' Han predicted.

According to his report, the city had an increase of 460,000 posts locally last year.

Also included in new year targets is an increase in local family incomes at a higher rate than the national level, Han said.

In the new year, the city's overall consumption rate should see a slight increase of3 per cent, breaking a long-term pattern of negative growth in prices, the mayor said.

"The increase will behealthy for local economic development,'' he explained.

But there are also worries ahead,especially with rising energy prices.

"If not well planned for,this might pose a threat to the city's economic situation,'' he said in a previous meeting with the local congress deputies.

Some 100,000 of the city's total unemployed came from job cuts due to the restructuring of enterprises.

And pressure is increasing with the city's population growing. A recent sample survey said that the city's actual population has surpassed 20 million, with a floating population of more than 3 million.

Despite all the difficulties, Han remains optimistic in achieving his goals, which are to control the registered unemployment rate below 4.6 per cent, 0.3 per cent lower than last year.

An encouraging sign was foreign investment in the city topping US$6.5 billion,ahead of the US$5.8 billion in 2002.

Also on the mayor's top agenda is further promotion of the city's private economy.

Rules for admitting companies to the market will be loosened, and the government will support the private economy enteing infrastructure projects, public utilities and other fields which State laws haven't clearly banned.

The long-existing discrimination against the private firms in terms of taxes, land use and conducting foreign trade will also be corrected.

"Yet when conducting all these reforms and vigorous plans, the city should pay more attention to co-ordination between the development and social stability,'' the mayor pointed out.

Problems have appeared accompanying the rapid growth, like conflicts relating to relocation projects in which residents are moved out to give way to the urban renovation work, and farmers who have lost their land due to the city's urbanization campaigns.

"The growth should be based on the society's tolerance level,'' Han said.

"When the city is vigorously conducting reforms, it should first be concerned with the basic interests of ordinary people and try to allow them to receive additional benefits from the city's development.''

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