Premier unveils plan for faster economic development

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 March, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 March, 1993, 12:00am

CHINA is aiming for a faster pace of economic reform so that its ''socialist market economy'' can enter a new phase within five years, according to the Government Work Report to be delivered by premier Mr Li Peng today.

Unveiling the bold blueprint at the Eighth National People's Congress, which opens in Beijing this morning, Mr Li is confident that faster economic growth would elevate the country to the level of ''small-scale plenty'' at least three years than earlier targeted.

In his 43-page report, the premier makes a pragmatic review of the past 14 years of reform and sketches a comprehensive scheme for speeding up the construction of a socialist market economy.

He points out that the annual growth rate of six per cent, earlier stated in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1991-95), has been revised to between eight and nine per cent.

''If we can maintain the [new] growth rate, we will be able to fulfil within five years our grand goal of quadrupling the GNP [Gross National Product] of 1980 by the year 2000,'' he writes. ''This will be an enormous boost to the people in China.'' Mr Li affirms the achievements of economic reform over the past five years, with only a veiled reference to the three years of retrenchment and rectification from 1988 to 1991.

The high average rate of economic growth at 7.9 per cent since 1988 has been attributed to the party leadership's ''unswerving commitment'' to economic construction as the core of work.

Whatever happens in other parts of the world, Mr Li stresses that every endeavour had to subserve the ''core task of economic construction''.

He says, however, that the country must also insist on the Four Cardinal Principles of Marxism and Communist Party leadership in order to preserve unity and stability.

The premier, once known for his hardline stance, has toned down his political and ideological rhetoric.

Noticeably absent from the report is jargon such as the ''campaign against bourgeois liberalisation'' or ''peaceful evolution''.

On an optimistic note, Mr Li says the development of the market economy and the widening of the open door has made new demands on the ''construction of spiritual civilisation''.

He calls for the grooming of a corps of ''new socialist men'' who are patriotic and firm believers in socialism, as well as confident and committed towards the future of the nation.

Mr Li points out that there should be equal efforts to curb crime.

''We should grasp the task of economic construction on one hand and the development of democracy and the legal system on the other.'' Calling on people to emancipate their minds, be innovative and stick to the principle of ''seeking truth from facts'', Mr Li warns that every step must be cautious.

''Now that the broad direction has been set, the crux of the matter is to stick to the task and never lose the opportunity.'' Mr Li says the domestic and international conditions are favourable for China to pursue its economic goals.

''Over the next five years, we have to make a great step forward towards the establishment of a socialist market economy system and open wider and deeper to the world,'' he points out.

Known for his central-planning orientations, Mr Li has apparently bowed to pressure from patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping to accelerate the pace of economic reforms.

Mr Li, who is set to retain his post in the next five-year term, does not mention the term ''overheatedness of the economy'' in his report.

He also makes it clear that the national growth rate of eight to nine per cent should not be applied rigidly across the country.

''This year's GNP growth rate has been put at eight per cent. But there is leeway for upward revision. The rate is also taken on average across the country. We do not advocate an across-the-board rate.

''Those regions which have better conditions can go for a higher rate. Those which are weaker do not have to compete for a higher rate. Attention should be put on the enhancement of economic efficiency,'' he says.

The premier underscores the need to strengthen the basis of agricultural development, particularly the development of township enterprises in central and western provinces.

He also points to malpractices in some areas in which farmers are faced with unreasonable levies from local authorities.

''Such malpractices have damaged the interest of farmers, affected their relations with the Government and must be dealt with effectively,'' he indicated.

Mr Li also stresses the need to boost infrastructure development such as railway, aviation, manufacturing, telecommunications, river control and the Three Gorges plan.

Foreign investors should be encouraged to use their money to upgrade the country's untapped resources, he says, adding that the service industry should also be greatly improved.

He notes that the Government should pump more money into upgrading science and technology development and education, and improving living conditions for intellectuals.

On the further opening up of the country, Mr Li indicates that development in the open cities along the coast would help bring prosperity into the hinterland.

He says it is ''unwise'' to bar China, which has enormous market potential, from membership of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

In his work report, Mr Li underlines the need to maintain the pace of growth on the one hand, and to boost efficiency on the other.

Further reforms should be adopted to revamp the state-owned enterprises, widen the market system, push ahead with price reform and speed up social security and housing reform as well as the macro-level economic management system.

On the administrative reform over the bureaucracy, Mr Li discloses that 25 per cent of government cadres and other staff should be slashed.