Chance to roll out reforms
THE BETTER-THAN-EXPECTED GROWTH FIGURES in November may have spared Chinese policymakers the trouble of delaying long-term reforms in favor of avoiding a sudden slowdown or taming a jump in prices.
But the heavy smog that engulfed almost half of the country over the weekend is a sobering reminder that the country must bend over backward to transform its current growth model that entails a too big environmental price tag.
Latest statistics show China’s consumer inflation slowed to 3 percent last month while strong export growth enabled the country to post a trade surplus of $33.8 billion, the biggest in almost five years.
By snapping out of a two-month acceleration in consumer prices, the November consumer price index has secured an inflation rate for the first 11 months of the year at 2.6 percent, far below the government’s full-year target of 3.5 percent.
Such benign inflation should indicate there is no immediate need to tighten monetary policy. It thus allows Chinese policymakers more room to maneuver when mapping out the growth agenda for the coming year.
Meanwhile, the country’s humming export engine speaks of both the resilience of Chinese manufacturers and a possible improvement in the global economy as demand for Chinese exports in developed economies is picking up.
External uncertainties have long weighed on Chinese policymakers’ minds when they try to speed domestic reforms. Now, they have a rare window of opportunity to bring about long-term reforms at a pace they deem proper.
It will be commendable if Chinese leaders take the time to carefully and effectively translate into reality all the ambitious and comprehensive reform plans made at the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in November.
The rapidly deteriorating air quality has simply made it a luxury for this country to deal with the scourge of fast urbanization and industrialization in a business-as-usual way.
Other countries’ experiences in dealing with hazardous smog may be inspiring but there is no guarantee of success here given the scale and severity of our battle against polluted air.
It is to be hoped that the authorities can do their best to introduce the needed reforms to reduce the environmental cost of growth as deeply and quickly as possible.