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China sees less room to fight growth slowdown

BEIJING: China has less and less room to rely on policy tools to support the economy, the country’s top economic planning agency said on Wednesday, as the government tries to arrest a protracted slowdown this year, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Last week, the government announced plans to quicken construction of railways and affordable housing, and cut taxes for small firms to support the economy.

Policy fine-tuning is needed to smooth out economic volatility, but room for the government to underpin growth is narrowing, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a report evaluating the implementation of the country’s 12th five-year plan (2011-2015).

“Against the backdrop of rising local government debt burdens, high debt ratios and rapid money supply growth and excessively large social financing, room for simply using fiscal and monetary policy to manage demand and promote economic growth is getting smaller and smaller,” the NDRC said.

“Improper operation will exacerbate overcapacity and delay structural adjustments, increase inflationary pressures and accumulate debt risks,” it said.

Beijing’s refusal to detail its spending plans reflects a concern that it could be seen as abandoning reforms in favor of pump-priming, such as the massive 4 trillion yuan ($645 billion) spending spree it pursued in the wake of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

Chinese leaders unveiled plans last year for sweeping reforms aimed at steering the economy away from its dependence on investment and exports to one driven more by consumption, services and innovation, which they consider more sustainable.

Economists polled by Reuters expect first-quarter gross domestic product figures due on April 16 to show growth slowing to a five-year low of 7.3 per cent, compared with 7.7 per cent for the whole of 2013.

Many analysts believe a further slowdown in growth, coupled with capital outflows, could prod the central bank to cut banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) later this year.

The NDRC said monetary policy should effectively prevent inflation and maintain financial market liquidity, and keep market interest rates at appropriate levels.

China will quicken the pace of yuan convertibility on the capital account and further enhance two-way fluctuations in the yuan exchange rate, the NDRC also said.

While controlling overall local government debts, the government will take a differentiated approach in dealing with debt risk in various regions, improve the municipal bond system and establish the “standard fund-raising mechanism”, it said.

The government will prevent failures in cash payments among companies from triggering systemic financial risks, it said.

Private investors will be allowed to invest in infrastructure and public projects, which will be funded more by bonds and stocks to ease the burden on the government.

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