Guangdong again targets 9pc annual growth
Leu Siew Ying in Guangzhou
Governor aims 'low' amid national measures to cool economy
Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua has, for the third time in four years, set an economic growth target of 9 per cent despite growth having outstripped his annual forecasts by up to five percentage points.
In the face of central government calls to rein in economic growth, Mr Huang, who set a 9 per cent growth target last year, said preliminary statistics showed Guangdong's economy had grown 14.1 per cent last year and accounted for an eighth of the national economy. The average urban disposable income rose 8.4 per cent to 16,016 yuan, while farmers' incomes were up 8.3 per cent at 5,080 yuan. Exports rose 26.8 per cent to US$302 billion, 31.2 per cent of the national total.
This year, in a show of the government's commitment to sustainable development, he followed his growth projection with a pledge to rein in energy consumption and reduce pollutants.
'The important economic and social targets for 2007 are: 9 per cent gross domestic product growth, a 3 per cent reduction in energy consumption and at least a 2 per cent reduction in total polluting substances,' he said in his work report to the Guangdong People's Congress yesterday. 'Urban disposable income will rise by 8 per cent and rural income by about 5.5 per cent.'
Mr Huang was a third of the way into his speech before he spoke about building a 'harmonious society' - the central government's main priority.
He pledged to lighten peasants' burdens, promised subsidies of 100 million yuan each to Jiangmen and the poor, mountainous northern, eastern and western wings of the province, and to raise medical subsidies for peasants.
As he did last year, Mr Huang made passing reference to the need to resolve land disputes, promising to 'strictly implement compensation for land acquisition'.
In the past four years, the government has pledged to develop the east, west and north of the province and touted its economic achievements. But the strong growth has not stopped rising rural unrest caused by land seizures and growing rural-urban income disparity.
'They talk a lot and do nothing,' said one western diplomat. 'They need to be in line with the central government's policy. [Premier] Wen Jiabao has talked about a harmonious society for 21/2 years. It's given people expectations. Now they have to deliver.'
He said Guangdong could afford to trim its growth rate by two to three percentage points to focus on social development. It was rich enough to set up a fund to provide a medical and social security net.
Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences economist Ding Li said the best growth rate for the country was 9 per cent, but Guangdong could only pull back to that level by the end of the 11th Five-Year Programme in 2010. 'The target is aimed at giving a signal to the various departments that they are not going for high growth, but for a long time it's been growing fast so it takes time to slow down,' he said.
On co-operation with Hong Kong, Mr Huang said construction of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong passenger railway and the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge would be priorities.
'We will continue missions with Hong Kong and Macau to developed countries to promote the Greater Pearl River Delta and Pan Pearl River Delta.'