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Insurance Regulators May Get More Active
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Chinese insurance regulators yesterday pledged to strengthen their macro management this year to prevent disruption of the industry's development, which is rapidly growing and facing nearly unrestricted foreign competition.


Wu Dingfu, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), said the insurance sector, which grew a sizzling average of more than 30 percent in the past two decades, is still in its early stages and the insurance companies, regulators and market are all still immature.


This year, his commission will resort to a combination of economic, legal and administrative measures to "enhance market management and prevent any major fluctuations," he told a national conference of insurance regulators.


In the property and casualty insurance sector, Wu said the regulatory focus this year is to regulate price competition and promote profitability, encouraging insurers to develop new products that will help improve their profitability and risk resistance.


Agricultural insurance and liability insurance are two segments that the commission supports most strongly.


In the area of life insurance, Wu said priority is given to the regulation of bancassurance, or insurance sold through banks, especially in the aspect of commissions.


China scrapped nearly all restrictions on foreign insurers at the end of 2004 as part of its World Trade Organization commitments. Foreign insurers are escalating to penetrate the local market, particularly the newly opened segments such as pension and group life insurance.


But despite the rapid growth of premiums in the past 20 years, local insurers are still subject to the possibility of abrupt slowdowns. Growth of premiums, particularly in the life insurance sector, downshifted sharply in 2004 to less than 10 per cent as insurers trimmed unprofitable businesses they blindly pursued earlier for the sake of market share.


(China Daily March 17, 2006)


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