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Economists Forecast Rosy Picture for 2004

A host of officials and economists said the outlook for China's economy this year looks even brighter than in 2003 even though pressure from employment and inflation may need closer government attention.

National Development and Reform Commission Minister Ma Kai predicted a gross domestic product (GDP) of 7 per cent in 2004, citing a favorable domestic and international economic situation.

Forecasting a 7.9 per cent growth for the Chinese economy in 2004, the Asian Development Bank said China is expected to play an even more important role in providing the impetus for growth in the entire East Asian region.

Cao Yuanzheng, chief economist of Bank of China International, says the Chinese economy has entered a new cycle of fast growth that will last until the beginning of 2005.

The State Information Center said last year's growth trend will continue in 2004, with GDP expected to rise by 8.5 per cent. The expected global economic recovery should create a good international environment for China's economic growth, the center says, and predicts that the authorities will shift the focus of its pro-active fiscal policy and make minor adjustments to its monetary policies.

Ma Kai said the government's consideration of slowing the pace of gross domestic product (GDP) growth is aimed at cultivating a "scientific approach" to social development.

"Economic development is not everything for the government, and we should pour more energy on other indicators such as education, health, environment and social welfare," said Ma. "I'm sure China can sustain a faster developing pace, but we will suffer setbacks if we ignore the rule of sustainable development."

Researchers said the government should consider implementing the guiding policy sooner.

Lin Yueqin from the Research Institute of Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said a small proportion of officials believe the higher the local economic indices reported, the more likely they will be promoted.

"It's good news that the government is committed to changing the negative trend," said Lin.

He said the promotion of officials should not be mainly based on economic growth indices in the regions where they work. Instead, social development indicators, such as the jobless rate and income levels, should be considered.

Ma also reiterated full commitment to taking a "resource-saving" approach to keep China's economy steaming.

"Various resources are limited for China; that's the challenge we must face during the whole process of industrialization," said Ma.

He suggested a massive campaign should be organized this year to promote resource-shortage awareness among the public and governmental officials.

(China Daily March 2, 2004)

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