Minister also says checks on private enterprises' investments will be eased The mainland would issue fewer treasury bonds next year and the money raised would be used primarily on social projects, a key economic minister said yesterday. Ma Kai, minister in charge of the State Development and Reform Commission, told a national conference in Beijing that the amount of treasury bonds to be issued in 2004 would be limited to 110 billion yuan (HK$103.4 billion) - down from 140 billion yuan this year. In addition, Mr Ma said the government would reform its regulatory system next year and allow enterprises to make their own investment decisions as long as they did not require government funding. Mr Ma said such investments would be assessed only for their public interest, and their adherence to anti-monopoly requirements and to policies on national security, utilisation of resources and environmental protection. A draft reform plan to that effect had been submitted by the commission to the State Council for approval, Mr Ma was quoted by Xinhua as saying. The minister said the economy was expected to continue its rapid pace of growth. Mr Ma said gross domestic product this year would likely reach 11 trillion yuan, an increase over 2002 of 8.5 per cent - significantly higher than the government's 7 per cent forecast at the start of the year. Nevertheless, he said the central government had set a modest 7 per cent growth target for next year. He stressed the authorities were now focused more on quality and efficiency than the blind pursuit of growth. Mr Ma said a robust economy was one of the reasons behind the reduction in public borrowing. The central government began large-scale bond issuances following the Asian financial crisis to keep the economy from sliding. According to Xinhua, the mainland has raised as much as 800 billion yuan in six years through public borrowing. Much of that money has been used on infrastructure, environmental and water conservation projects, and to upgrade traditional industries. But Mr Ma said the priorities would be different next year. 'The T-bond money for next year will be used mainly for improving living and production conditions in rural areas and building facilities for public health, basic education, grassroots administration and law-enforcement authorities,' the minister was quoted as saying.