It is debatable how much economic impact the annual meetings of the full National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference make other than jamming the capital's congested roads and raising occupancy rates at the Beijing Hotel. But, on economic and less-sensitive political matters, delegates are showing growing reluctance to relegate themselves to the traditional role of rubber-stamp legislators and docile advisers. A few financial issues are expected to be raised frequently at the CPPCC meeting that opened on Thursday and the full NPC session that starts today, analysts say. At the top of list will be the woeful state of the mainland stock markets. The benchmark Shanghai A-Share Index has shed another 22.7 per cent from a year earlier, extending losses from its peak on June 13, 2001 to 42 per cent. A host of measures to channel more insurance, bank and pension money into the stock market has lifted the index by 8 per cent since the end of January. But widespread pessimism demands more drastic steps. Wu Jinglian, one of the most outspoken mainland economists and a CPPCC member, told reporters: 'Whether this year will see a turnaround in the stock market will depend on the determination of the government and regulators [to effect major changes] and on a redefined role of the stock market.' Among the thorniest issues facing the government is how to float the hitherto non-tradeable shares traditionally held by the government and state-backed firms that make up about two-thirds of the mainland stock market's total capitalisation of 3.48 trillion yuan. Since a short-lived policy for mandatory reduction of those shares during domestic share offerings sent the fraud-crackdown-induced stock market slump into a free fall in 2001, sentiment has subtly shifted from extreme aversion to a government sell-down to demand for greater policy clarity. 'It's unrealistic to expect the elimination of the tradeable-non-tradeable share divide any time soon,' CPPCC member Wang Guangyuan was quoted by China Securities as writing in a proposal. 'However, it is key to give the market clear guidance ... to boost investor confidence.' Analysts, including the much revered Mr Wu and former regulators, argue it is not the panacea. An academic at one of the mainland's top universities said regulation had focused too much on the stock market's fund-raising functions rather than on the importance of value for investors. He proposed the introduction of a short-selling mechanism. This would allow investors to benefit from both share price upside and downside and accelerate growth of the hitherto neglected corporate and project finance bond markets. On the banking front, the controversial US$45 billion state capital injection at the end of 2003 to kick-start corporate governance reform and financial restructuring of the state-owned China Construction Bank (CCB) and Bank of China (BOC) are bound to be revisited. Last year, some delegates derided the bailout as a wasteful use of government resources that would encourage moral hazard and argued it should have required legislative approval. The criticism may have delayed a similar and larger bailout this year of China's biggest commercial bank, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which may cost 300 billion to 400 billion yuan. At this year's meeting, the impact of the CCB and BOC reforms and the planned ICBC restructuring were likely to be scrutinised, along with the effectiveness of four state-owned asset management companies set up in 1999 to sell bad debt taken over by the Big Four state banks, a domestic banking analyst said. For the second year in row, Yi Xianrong, a senior economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is trying to alert delegates to the danger of China's property bubble. If it burst, it would deal a direct blow to the banking sector whose outstanding loans to property developers and home-buyers had grown to 2.38 trillion yuan by the end of last year, compared with the free-floating market capitalisation of 1.1 trillion yuan. The latest data from the State Bureau of Statistics reveals a 14.4 per cent rise in selling prices of China properties last year and a 15.2 per cent increase in prices of residential properties nationwide.