China set to speed up economic reforms

Shanghai, August 27:

China is still struggling to rein in excess and speculative investment, the country’s top economic planner told lawmakers, outlining plans for the rest of the year. Ma Kai, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the government will step up efforts to reform state industries and commercial banks, while keeping real estate speculation under control, state media reported today. “In some areas, investment is growing too quickly. Investment growth is still at a high level,” Ma said in comments to the National People’s Congress reported by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Overall, Ma’s assessment was positive. He reported that efforts to boost rural incomes, a key part of the Communist leadership’s political agenda, were working. Average annual rural incomes rose by 12.5 per cent in the first half of the year over the same period in 2004, to $200, while urbanites earned an average of $660, up by 9.5 per cent over a year earlier, he was quoted as saying. Ma said the government would seek to further increase incomes and boost consumption by encouraging retailers to set up stores in the countryside.

Given potential constraints on exports, a key driver of China’s nine per cent-plus growth in the past two years, boosting spending in the countryside is seen as crucial for overall economic growth. To stabilise grain production and increase farm incomes, the government has set a minimum purchasing price for rice of $170, Ma said. Ma also reiterated pledges to boost construction of affordable housing, while limiting development of upscale projects. The government has sought to cool real estate speculation, largely focused on luxury developments, by increasing required downpayments, boosting taxes, cutting back on land use approvals and ordering banks to curb lending for such projects. Those measures will continue, Ma said.

Textile quota talks continue

BEIJING: European and Chinese negotiators were to hold a third day of talks today aimed at producing a new agreement on textile quotas to replace a deal that has left tons of Chinese-made garments stranded at European ports. Meetings on Friday went late into the evening but there was no immediate word of any progress in the talks, which began on Thursday, said Michael Jennings, a spokesman for the EU office in Beijing. — AP

China’s loss may be Taiwan’s gain

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s Far Eastern Textile Ltd expects its factories to get more orders as the EU and the US crack down on shipments of China-made textiles. Exports of Chinese textiles have rocketed since the abolition of a global quota system. and the US and EU fear that the cheap Chinese goods will leave their industries in tatters. However, “if demand for goods from China

turns bad, my output from would pick up,” said Douglas Hsu, chairman of Far Eastern Textile and Far Eastern Group. — AP