Premier Li Peng last week set the tone for the country's growth over the next five years: Easy does it. Speaking at the National People's Congress in Beijing, Mr Li projected economic growth would average about 8 per cent through 2000 with inflation not to exceed gross domestic product growth. Mr Li's long-term forecasts in the past consistently underestimated the nation's real growth. But nearly three years of tight monetary policies have meant that the gap between government estimates and reality may be narrowing. UBS Securities predicts that fixed-asset investment growth in China will remain stable at 13 per cent for 1996 and 15 per cent for 1997. Slightly higher than last year's 11 per cent rise but a long way from the 21 per cent rise in 1994. Retail price inflation, which fell sharply last year to 14.8 per cent from 21.7 per cent, could settle at about 12.5 per cent this year before picking up again to about 14.5 per cent in 1997. Growth of real personal income for urban workers is expected to outpace consumer spending growth for the next two years, reversing last year's performance. As China slowly reforms its enterprise system, employment will continue its descent in the state and urban collective sectors. By contrast, the private sector is expected to grow strongly in manpower as it soaks up some of the laid-off state sector workers. Overall wage growth is expected to remain above 25 per cent for the next two years, in line with last year's performance.