Reforms must focus on sharing wealth, say economists

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2005, 12:00am

Beijing needs to focus more on ways to share wealth among the people when the mainland's economy inevitably slows, officials from the National Development and Reform Commission cautioned yesterday.

Chen Dongqi , a vice-president of the commission's Macroeconomic Research Institute, told an economic conference in Beijing that it would not be easy to sustain economic growth of 9 per cent in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010).

'It is feasible [for China to accept] a slowdown in growth in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan period,' Mr Chen was quoted by the China News Service as saying.

'But we will have to shift our focus from pursuing growth rates to aiming for economic efficiency.

'We will have to strive for achieving maximum efficiency with minimum cost.'

Mr Chen said China's economic growth in the next five to six years probably would stay within the 8 per cent to 81/2 per cent range, but might dip to about 7 per cent. But he added that even that level of economic activity - compared with the average 9 per cent achieved in the past two decades - would allow the government to share more wealth with the people.

In a recent article, Fan Hengshan , a commission director, also emphasised that state leaders must make some 'tough decisions'.

Mr Fan said future reforms should focus more on how to share wealth and not be blinded by the pursuit of growth.

'What we have in front of us now are reforms which touch on the interests of many different parties,' Mr Fan wrote.

'[To succeed], we will need to expend a great deal of effort to work together and be prepared to accept that these reforms can be rather risky.

'[We can say] reforms have now reached the stage that we must make some tough decisions.

'Reforms today are no longer just about breaking old rules, but also about what we are going to establish [to replace the old rules].

'It is obvious that the emphasis must be on what we are building ... especially on how we are going to share the fruits of reform among the people.'

Communist Party leaders are expected to meet next month to review and adopt the Eleventh Five-Year Plan.

The blueprint will spell out key parameters of reforms and lay out the main directions for the five-year period.