Fri, Jan 12, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Chinese premier predicts economy grew ‘6.9 percent’

WINTER THAW:Authorities have shut down polluting factories and cut industrial capacity, but analysts said such actions might have stalled fourth-quarter growth

AFP, BEIJING

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) expects economic growth of about 6.9 percent for last year, as he saw a “better than expected” outlook for the world’s second-largest economy, state media said yesterday.

The authorities are to release official GDP figures next week, but Li has given his own forecast.

“Over the past year, the Chinese economy has been on a stable and favorable development path, with its overall circumstances better than expected,” Li said in a speech on Wednesday at a diplomatic summit in Cambodia, Xinhua news agency said.

The Chinese economy grew 6.7 percent in 2016 — its slowest pace for more than a quarter of a century.

However, the country experienced a rebound in the first half of last year, posting 6.9 percent growth over that period, as well as an increase of 6.8 percent in the third quarter, thanks to soaring credit and investments in infrastructure.

In an effort to stem winter air pollution, authorities in recent months have conducted a massive campaign to shut down polluting factories and slash excess industrial capacity, particularly in the north.

According to analysts, the aggressive campaign might have stalled growth in the fourth quarter, due to the slowdown in industrial production.

“The annual gross domestic product is expected to grow by around 6.9 percent,” Li said.

His figure is slightly better than the 6.8 percent forecast by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top state think tank.

“The crux of why the Chinese economy was able to perform so well is that we insisted on not implementing a flood of stimuli” and instead sought to foster “new sources of growth,” he said.

Li led a senior delegation on a daylong official visit to Cambodia, China’s close ally.

He and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday signed nearly 20 agreements worth several billion US dollars to develop the impoverished Southeast Asian country’s infrastructure, agriculture and healthcare.

Among the major agreements was building a new expressway more than 200km long linking Phnom Penh with Sihanoukville, and a new Phnom Penh international airport.

Cambodian Minister of Public Work and Transport Sun Chanthol said after the signing that China would invest about US$2 billion for the highway.

The project is set to start this year and would take at least 44 months to complete, he added.

China has provided millions of dollars in aid and investment over the past decade, granted Cambodia a tariff-free status on hundreds of trade items and written off its debt.

In return, Cambodia supports China in international forums, including Beijing’s ongoing dispute with Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.

Additional reporting by AP

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