LAXITY by officials in implementing central economic orders will be severely punished, Executive Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji has warned. He said the national financial work conference which ended on July 7 would be the cut-off date and cadres who had made mistakes over their economic work before that date would not be punished - so long as they had not violated government rules or discipline. However, those who failed to abide by the 16-point austerity programme adopted at the end of the conference would no longer be excused. ''[We have to] severely punish anyone who did not stop any activities that should be prohibited. [We have to] seriously deal with anyone who dares to challenge the laws,'' he said. The assurance and warnings by Mr Zhu were given during an inspection tour of the impoverished Guizhou province last week. They were reported by Xinhua (the New China News Agency) yesterday. Mr Zhu, who has recently been appointed to head the People's Bank of China, called on provincial cadres to implement fully the major policies adopted by the central Government to improve the economy. The revamp of the fiscal order was the first step in solving the problems arising out of economic development, he said. Mr Zhu said the economic problems faced by the province were the same as those plaguing the national economy. These included the failure to follow the requirement of optimising industrial structure to spend funds on key capital construction projects, a drop in bank savings and the lending of huge funds to coastal areas in property speculation, he said. As a result, the normal production of enterprises was affected, as the shortage of funds held up key state capital projects, Mr Zhu pointed out. The economic supremo attributed the problems to the chaotic fiscal order. He urged local cadres to save farmland in their drive to promote development zones. Projects in development zones must be related to new and high-technology. He called on the inland province to take into account its practical conditions when deciding on the development strategy. Guizhou should fully utilise its rich natural resources and develop rural enterprises, Mr Zhu said. Meanwhile, government officials estimated that the national economy would still grow at an annual rate of 12.7 per cent this year. Citing the double-digit economic growth forecast by relevant departments, the Hongkong China News Agency said the ongoing ''macro-control and readjustment'' exercise did not amount to across-the-board austerity. According to the China News Service, the State Economic Information Centre said inflation would worsen this year if agricultural problems remained unresolved. Officials said that to curb inflation, agriculture had to be stabilised. However, researchers found the overall agricultural situation was far from positive. The enthusiasm of farmers would be dampened if problems such as the rising cost of production in agriculture and the slow growth of peasants' incomes were not improved, they said.