Delta plan to surpass S Korea and Taiwan in wealth stakes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 April, 2009, 12:00am

The Pearl River Delta's economy will surpass that of South Korea in the next decade and average income will overtake that of Taiwan, the Guangdong government says.

The targets were included in an economic blueprint announced at the weekend and follow guidelines announced by the State Council in early January. Beijing wants to return the delta to its previous role as a cradle for national economic reform, although the push comes at a time when the world's thirst for Guangdong's cheap goods, responsible for nearly one-third of the mainland's exports, has slackened.

Under the targets, the delta's gross domestic product this year must reach 3.15 trillion yuan (HK$3.58 trillion) and per capita GDP hit 65,200 yuan. The GDP for all of Guangdong last year was 3.57 trillion yuan and its per capita GDP was 37,588 yuan.

The blueprint was announced on Saturday as Guangdong party chief Wang Yang met the mayors of nine Pearl River Delta cities - Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Jiangmen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Huizhou and Zhaoqing, all targeted in the central government's guidelines.

Governor Huang Huahua said earlier that the province's economy was expected to grow by only 8.5 per cent this year, the slowest since the mainland embarked on economic reforms 30 years ago. Guangdong's GDP growth slowed to 10.1 per cent last year from 14.7 per cent in 2007, and export growth tumbled to 9.4 per cent from 22.3 per cent. It does not expect exports to grow this year.

Lin Jiang, director of Sun Yat-sen University's Hong Kong and Macau research centre, said: 'Because of the delta's importance to the country's economy, party chief Wang Yang wants to tell the central government that no matter how difficult the situation is, the province is still at the forefront of economic reform. It is also a political order to all city governments on achieving growth despite the hard time.'

Last month, mainland media reported that more than 10,000 middle- and high-ranking Guangdong officials would attend an unprecedented training programme to bring them up to speed on the central government's plan. Observers said the training would help officials reach a consensus about the province's development. Academics say the blueprint could fail as cities and counties compete against each other as, under the existing system, cadres' promotions are linked to the GDP and fiscal income of the areas they govern.

A goal of 4 trillion yuan in 2012 has been set for the delta's economy, while the per capita GDP would be 80,000 yuan. The delta's 2020 GDP goal is 7.25 trillion yuan and its per capita GDP goal is 135,000 yuan.

Last year, South Korea's GDP was US$1.278 trillion, and Taiwan's per capita GDP was US$31,900.

The provincial government's reference to the pair, Professor Lin said, was because both had sound hi-tech manufacturing sectors. 'South Korea has a number of national brands which have international status, and it also has a well-developed automobile sector, while Taiwan also has a sound hi-tech industry sector and advanced management skills,' he said. 'It shows Mr Wang wants to make them role models.'

Mr Wang wants to reduce Guangdong's dependence on resource-intensive industries, and increase the number of hi-tech manufacturing and service industries.