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Economists Talk of Ways to Secure Growth Rate

"Although the world economy is slowing down, China's economic development has great potential to maintain about a 7 percent growth rate in the coming years," said Wu Jinglian, a renowned economist with the Development Research Center under the State Council, yesterday.

"China's objective conditions completely back up such growth, as long as China maintains an active financial policy, pushes the reform of state-owned enterprises and boosts private enterprises," said Wu, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Echoing Wu's opinion, another famous economist, Peking University professor Xiao Zhuoji, said the government should arrange its economic work this year with a target growth of 7 percent to 7.5 percent; otherwise, some potential problems involving unemployment, a fiscal imbalance between income and expenses and lagging profits will be exacerbated in the years to come.

Turning to the problems with China's farmers, Wu said the key point is how to push forward the development of non-farming production which can create more jobs for a surplus of rural laborers.

The number of surplus rural laborers in China is expected to increase by over 8 million a year over the next five years, according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture. However, experts have estimated China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) will result in 20 million fewer job openings for farmers.

"The only way out is to bring labor-intensive industries into full play to create more jobs for farmers," Wu said, calling for promoting the construction of small towns and cities.

Wu also said that in the remote and less-developed western regions, private enterprises should be encouraged.

"Less-developed areas mean great potential," he said.

Wu emphasized the important role of private enterprises in China's rapid economic development, saying booming private enterprises in southern China have brought those regions high growth in gross domestic product (GDP).

Calling the development of private enterprises good news for unemployed workers, Wu pointed out that development of private enterprises can provide a lot of jobs.

In this regard, Xiao said the expansion of domestic demand depends largely on the exploring of markets, especially in the countryside, where most of China's population lives.

"To expand domestic demand, an important measure is to raise the income and lessen the burdens on farmers," Xiao said.

Preferential policies and taxation exemptions on agriculture and farm products should be adopted to expand consumption in the countryside and bridge the difference between rural and urban areas, Xiao suggested.

(China Daily March 7, 2002)

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