New Straits Times


Beijing also cuts budget deficit goal to 2.6pc from 3pc


CHINA aims to expand its economy by around 6.5 per cent this year, the same as in last year, while pressing ahead with its campaign to reduce risks in the financial system, said Premier Li Keqiang yesterday.

The goal was kept unchanged even though the economy grew 6.9 per cent last year and exceeded the government’s target. Sources previously said China will maintain its growth target at “around 6.5 per cent”.

Economists had already expected the world’s secondlarg­est economy to lose some momentum this year as the government deepens its push to contain a build-up in corporate debt, while a war on pollution and a cooling property market weigh on its manufactur­ers.

Reinforcin­g views that Beijing’s attention remains firmly fixed on credit risks and better quality growth, when Li unveiled the gross domestic product (GDP) target he omitted previous wording saying growth could be “higher if possible”.

In his annual work report, Li also said China has cut its budget deficit target for the first time since 2012, suggesting Beijing will be more watchful of fiscal spending while not tapping the brakes so hard that it risks a sharper slowdown.

“Policy wise, the report definitely has a tightening bias,” said Betty Wang, senior China economist at ANZ in Hong Kong. “In line with expectatio­ns, the government is pushing through their reform agenda.”

But last week’s escalation in trade tensions with the United States has jumped to the top of the list of uncertaint­ies facing China this year.

President Donald Trump said he would impose hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminium to protect US producers, risking retaliatio­n from major trade partners like China and sparking fears of a global trade war.

Li said China opposes protection­ism and supports the settlement of trade disputes through negotiatio­n, but will “resolutely safeguard” its legitimate rights and interest.

Yet, China will keep its yuan currency basically stable, said Li in remarks to the opening of the annual meeting of parliament.

He said a steady rise in import and export volumes can be expected this year, a view unchanged from a year ago. No export target was given for the third straight year.

“We can expect continued recovery of the global economy, but there are also many factors that bring instabilit­y and uncertaint­y,” said the premier.

“The policy changes of the major economies and their spillover effects create uncertaint­y; protection­ism is mounting, and geopolitic­al risks are on the ascent,” he said.

China’s economic and financial risks “are generally under control” but more needs to be done to resolve issues such as local government debt, said Li.

He also said China will improve supervisio­n over shadow banking, Internet finance and financial holding companies, and step up risk controls at financial institutio­ns.

Li said China has cut its budget deficit target to 2.6 per cent of GDP from three per cent last year. Most analysts had expected it to be maintained or trimmed only slightly.

However, since the economy has been expanding at such a strong pace, analysts said the cut was again more symbolic of Beijing’s intention to further control debt growth.

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 ??  ?? China Premier Li Keqiang delivering a speech during the opening of the first Plenary Session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday. EPA PIC
China Premier Li Keqiang delivering a speech during the opening of the first Plenary Session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday. EPA PIC

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