Official stance at annual economic summit dampens hope among analysts that any drastic changes in policy will occur The Central Economic Work Conference which ended on Sunday has dampened hopes for drastic changes to economic policies, according to mainland analysts. Authorities decided at the annual economic summit to maintain macroeconomic controls next year because policymakers were still uncertain about how effective they had been, an economist from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said yesterday. 'They have yet to form a clear-sighted judgment on the current economic situation, and are unable to make an adequate decision about where and at what pace to take the country's economy next year,' he said. The vaguely worded statement issued at the end of the three-day conference said strengthening and improving macroeconomic control policies was the top economic priority for next year. It also mentioned the need to push ahead with reforms of the economic system, but failed to spell out any specific programmes. The leadership said the macroeconomic controls had been timely and effective, but admitted that 'chronic and deeply entrenched problems' still plagued the economy. 'Macroeconomic controls are a short-term tool to correct the current situation,' the economist said. 'Only reform can cure what ails the economy.' Analysts said the question was not whether the government wanted to reform malfunctioning sectors of the economy, but whether it could afford to move quickly. 'The ultimate objective is reform, because macro controls won't be able to solve any long-term problems,' the economist said. Tax reform, which would include value-added tax reform, income tax reform and unification of corporate taxes, had been planned for this year but was postponed because policymakers were worried about the effects it would have on attempts to rein in the economy. The government would follow the principle of 'crossing the water by feeling the stones' when it came to any economic decisions. The interest rate rise in October, the mainland's first for nearly a decade, was a move to test the water. 'Policymakers are still not sure about the result, and they won't take any further moves until they are,' the economist said. There was little indication from the meeting that the policy direction would change drastically next year. 'The most likely scenario is to maintain the status quo,' the economist said. The statement stressed the importance of acknowledging that macroeconomic control measures were both 'necessary' and 'would take a long while ... to work out in the socialist market economy'.