Leaders meet to ensure smooth reforms
WILLY WO-LAP LAM
BEIJING has convened a national work meeting on the economy to ensure the smooth progress next year of reforms in areas including foreign trade and investment.
Apart from central and provincial leaders, middle-level cadres with ranks of heads of departments and bureaus are also taking part.
It is understood that major directions or initiatives will not be discussed since they had already been laid down at the Fifth Plenum of the Central Committee in September as well as President Jiang Zemin's speech at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum last month.
However, central ministries might face pressure from localities and state enterprises to loosen credit next year.
'The emphasis is on the implementation of recently announced policies such as slashing import duties, and how improvements in exports and attracting foreign investment can be made in light of the new environment,' a Beijing source said.
'For example, local governments and corporations are told not to engage in adverse competition such as cost cutting in their efforts to boost exports.' Central and local officials will also discuss measures to achieve the goal of making the renminbi convertible by or before the end of the decade.
These involve steps including determining the foreign-currency quota for different product lines.
Central leaders are expected to address fears raised by representatives of inland provinces and state enterprises that trade liberalisation will not hurt native industries.
Based on earlier feedback from the regions, the State Council is close to putting together a final draft of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), which will be endorsed at the National People's Congress in March.
Analysts said the plan would not be discussed at length at this work meeting since most local leaders were not prepared to openly challenge central authority.
However, regional representatives will lobby Beijing to loosen credit for state enterprises that have earning potential and for industries that may be hurt by tariff reductions.
Local officials have pointed out that as a result of the financial squeeze, numerous local governments and enterprises have difficulty paying employees, which could exacerbate social unrest.
These cadres would also give their views on a new document on the delineation of the rights and duties of central authorities and those of localities.
The meeting, which is convened by the State Council and the General Office of the party Central Committee, starts in the capital today.