Threats to Guangdong highlighted

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2006, 12:00am

Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua used his annual work report to the provincial people's congress yesterday to highlight the threat posed by increasing domestic competition and deep-rooted structural problems.

He said innovation and restructuring focused on improving quality and efficiency would be needed to drive the economy forward in the next five years.

'In the 27 years of opening-up and reform, Guangdong has accumulated a lot of manufacturing assets, economic power and experience of success,' Mr Huang said. 'All these are advantageous to our future growth, but at the same time, brother provinces are growing rapidly, our strengths are weakening and some profound problems have not been resolved.'

In a departure from his previous style of listing his government's accomplishments and pledging to do better, the governor gave an insight into official thinking on pressing social ills that might derail Guangdong's high-speed growth.

He devoted about five pages of his 38-page report to the building of a harmonious society, and repeatedly made oblique references to several high-profile land disputes and a mine disaster that badly hurt his reputation last year.

Mr Huang underscored the magnitude of the task to build a harmonious society, a key policy goal of President Hu Jintao , by listing issues that could destabilise society, including salary disputes and the exploitation of migrant workers, rural unemployment and the inadequacies of social security and health services.

'It is a good report ... It shows their thinking,' said Hong Kong legislative councillor Wong Ting-kwong, a delegate to the Guangdong People's Political Consultative Conference since 2004.

'In the past, it was all positive,' Mr Wong said, adding he had intended to raise some of the problems but Mr Huang had covered the ground so well he had decided to put aside his own suggestions.

A western diplomat, however, said Mr Huang was 'just dancing to Beijing's tune'.

'There was nothing special. Just one sentence about security at mines. Nothing specific on land disputes,' he said.

Mr Huang repeated Guangdong party chief Zhang Dejiang's stern warning to avoid land disputes, and pledged to 'speed up reform of the land requisition system' and 'improve the system to provide peasants who lose their land with reasonable compensation and resettlement'.

He also pledged to raise rural income by providing skills training to a million young rural people, find jobs for redundant farm labourers, resolve wage disputes in the construction industry and step up investigation and control to protect the rights of migrant labour.

Mr Huang talked about building a harmonious Guangdong in his work report last year, but social unrest came to a boil with a crackdown on activists and villagers in Taishi, and police firing on villagers in Shanwei .

Guangdong's gross domestic product expanded at a rate of 12.5 per cent last year and was set to grow by 9 per cent this year, Mr Huang said.

Lingnan College economist Wu Yingxin said the governor was exercising his usual caution in setting a low growth target, but he was sticking to his own forecast of 11 per cent to 12 per cent growth.

Mr Huang said fixed-asset investment rose 16.3 per cent last year, retail sales grew 15 per cent and foreign trade was up by 19.8 per cent. The targets for this year were 14 per cent growth in retail sales, 15 per cent growth in fixed-asset investment and 10 per cent growth in foreign trade.

Professor Wu believed growth in foreign trade would 'be far away higher than that figure'.