Suggestions of a property bubble developing on the mainland were dismissed by a senior economist at a cabinet think-tank yesterday who said there was 'very wide room for development' of the market. Ba Shusong , deputy head of the State Development Research Centre's financial research institute, told a summit in Sanya , Hainan , that the growth of the property market had lagged behind overall economic growth. 'Therefore, [one] cannot blindly exaggerate the signs of a bubble in China's property sector,' Mr Ba was quoted by Xinhua as saying. He said that in the United States, the property sector accounted for 20 to 30 per cent of the country's gross domestic product during the process of urbanisation. Thereafter, the level stood at 10 per cent. But he said the mainland property sector accounted for only about 1 per cent of GDP. 'There will be huge room for growth [as the percentage grows] from 1 to 10 per cent. This shows that China's property market has very healthy prospects for development,' he said. Mr Ba's remarks are in line with those made by officials from the Ministry of Construction, which in late October issued a report justifying rising prices by referring to growing demand. But some mainland economists have queried the report, saying that price rises are outpacing growth in personal income, and that authorities assumed that potential demand was real demand. Mr Ba's views were echoed by Gu Wenxuan, deputy president of the Chinese Society for Urban Studies under the Ministry of Construction and the China Association for Science and Technology. Mr Gu told the symposium that annual population growth of 18 to 20 million in urban areas would generate extra demand for 440 million square metres of residential property floor space. The influx of migrants from rural areas was also expected to create demand for a further 90 million square metres of floor space. Renovations of old buildings would create 200 million to 300 million square metres of floor space every year. Mr Gu said estimates of total floor space needed did not take into account the expansion of residential floor space as prosperity led to better living conditions. 'The demand for construction every year will be huge,' Mr Gu said.