Inflation not our fault, say mayors

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 1994, 12:00am

THE mayors of the five Chinese cities worst hit by inflation have denied responsibility for the problem.

Haikou in Hainan province, Guangzhou, Nanning in Guangxi, Qingdao in Shandong and Ningbo in Zhejiang had the highest inflation figures in China last year.

But their mayors said the price hikes were either the result of a lack of central Government control, conservatism of the past leadership or price increases in other parts of the country.

Inflation, which reached an alarming level after the Lunar New Year, has become a major issue among delegates attending the NPC.

Analysts pointed out that the recent surge was unusual as inflation normally stabilised after the New Year buying spree.

The defiant attitude of the mayors was in sharp contrast to speeches made by senior central leaders at the NPC, who warned that regional governments must move in tandem with the central Government in fighting inflation.

The State Council recently issued a circular stating the Government would impose strict price controls on at least 20 essential goods and services to combat inflation.

The mayors, however, claimed inflation was not so bad as long as people could cope with it.

Zeng Haorong, Mayor of Haikou and a delegate to the NPC, told the China News Service his city had the highest inflation last year, a staggering 25.8 per cent.

But the main reason, Mr Zeng said, was because Haikou had to rely on other provinces for food, which had become much more expensive.

Prices of major staple food items soared at least 29 per cent, he said.

''But the average increase in income for urban residents in Haikou last year was 30 per cent [and] rural residents 40 per cent,'' he said.

Mayor Xu Yunhong of Ningbo boasted that his city had no fear of inflation.

''Just one factor alone - more expensive seafood - had led to a five per cent increase in inflation.

But the income of our urban residents grew 50 per cent last year, therefore there was still an improvement of living standards,'' Mr Xu said.

Retail prices reportedly jumped 25.1 per cent last year in Ningbo - the fourth highest increase in the country.

While most mayors refused to take responsibility for the price hikes, some offered solutions.

Li Ziliu, the outspoken mayor of Guangzhou, said his city would seek to keep prices down by increasing the supply of vegetables.

And Nanning, the provincial capital of Guangxi, would also follow Guangzhou's example and expand its vegetable and poultry supply.

Yu Zhensheng, mayor of Qingdao, said the central authorities should rein in capital construction projects to combat inflation.