Li Peng's NPC report urges even tighter state control

CHINESE Prime Minister Li Peng will stress stability and central authority in his Government Work Report to be presented to the National People's Congress when it opens on March 10.

While the final draft of the 15,000-character report is still being fine-tuned, informed sources said the premier would urge the nation's officials and citizens to strike a balance between reform, development and stability.

Top priority will be put on shoring up the centre's authority in the macro-level adjustment and control over the economy, a point that had been made by senior leaders Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun in Shanghai last month.

The sources said barring 11th-hour changes, Mr Li would recommend a GNP growth rate for 1994 of nine per cent, with the rates for industrial and agricultural development fixed at respectively 15 per cent and at least 3.5 per cent. Inflation should be kept within 10 per cent.

The premier will reiterate the national goal for 1994 that had been laid down by the Politburo recently: ''Seize the opportunities; deepen reform; expand the open door policy; promote development; and guarantee stability.'' An informed source said: ''The accent will be on stability, ensuring that reforms already unveiled late last year would be implemented without exacerbating socio-political problems.'' ''There will not be any new exhortation to quicken reform or development in view of the leadership's fears that too heady a pace might precipitate hyperinflation, unemployment and challenges to the administration.'' Following the recent remarks by Mr Deng and Mr Chen, premier Li will draw attention to the fact that ''without central authority, nothing can be achieved [in economic development]''.

Mr Li will call on the regional leaders to put the overall national situation before local concerns. The premier will specifically warn against provinces and cities competing with each other in boosting their already very ambitious development targets.

Chinese economists who have seen parts of the draft report said it would be divided into seven sections.

They will include the state of the economy and the political situation; economic reforms that will be carried out this year; the priorities for development with special emphasis on agriculture; the relationship between the centre and the regions; the need to balance economic reform with the construction of spiritual civilisation; reforms of the political and administrative structures; social objectives, particularly developments in education and technology; international affairs, including policy towards Hong Kong and Taiwan.

A senior economist said: ''Li Peng will not mention new economic reform initiatives beyond those already unveiled at the party Central Committee plenum last November.

''However, in view of the fact that reforms, including the new taxation system, have been bogged down because of opposition from regional cadres and other power blocs, the premier will underscore Beijing's commitment to their forceful implementation.'' Areas of economic reform that will receive special emphasis include putting into place a modern enterprise system and rationalising the investment and banking system.

''Premier Li will give further support to market experiments, particularly the conversion of state enterprises into shareholding companies,'' the economist said.

''However, in view of the fear of rising unemployment as a result of state concerns laying off workers to improve efficiency, he will underscore Beijing's readiness to go on supporting those government enterprises that are not yet ready to undergo radical restructuring.'' In his report, the premier expresses confidence that the overhauling of the investment and banking system will cure the problem of excessive fixed-assets investments by both local governments and enterprises.

He will reiterate that the limit for fixed-assets investments of all levels for 1994 will be 1,300 billion yuan (HK$1,154 billion), and that ''the ceiling absolutely cannot be breached''.

New initiatives will be unveiled in the fight against inflation, deemed the prime problem of the economy. The measures will include regular inspections of price levels, punishments against speculators and the setting of price guidelines for essential commodities including grain and staple foodstuffs.

Pride of place will be given to agriculture, with a revival of the old goal of putting grain production as the key link of the economy.

Mr Li will reassure the nation's farmers of increased state investment as well as the fact that as a result of factors including the raising of the procurement price of produce, per capita income in rural areas will be boosted by at least five per cent.

The premier will urge local administrations to devote more resources and acreage to farming. He will strongly attack the phenomenon of the reckless decimation of farm land for the creation of a unrealistically large number of industrial and real-estate development zones.

A large segment of the report will be devoted to the building up of ''spiritual civilisation,'' a long-standing code-word for ideological control and beefing up the tools of proletarian democratic dictatorship.

Invoking Mr Deng's well-known dictum, Mr Li will urge the nation to ''grasp [national affairs] with both hands; and both hands must be [equally] tough'', meaning that economic reform must go in tandem with tight state control over dissent and law and order.

In view of the dramatically rising crime rate that the heads of the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate will detail in their efforts to the NPC, Mr Li will pledge that more resources be devoted for fighting crime.

He is expected to recommend the comprehensive management of crime, meaning an interdepartmental approach that includes government units including the police, state security, paramilitary forces, the judicial system and those handling smuggling, drugs andtransport.

The report underlines the importance of a strong defence and security apparatus in view of the fact that while the Cold War has ended, regional flashpoints have been on the increase and that infiltration into China by hostile foreign forces has gone on unabated.

The premier is expected to recommend a budget boost for the People's Liberation Army of about 13 per cent.

Chinese sources said there would be a sub-section on Hong Kong policy, where the premier was expected to reaffirm Beijing's commitment to maintaining the territory's stability and prosperity after the total collapse of talks with the Hong Kong-British administration on political development.

The premier is expected to call for the strengthening of the role of the Preliminary Working Committee as well as quickening the pace of its work in uniting patriotic forces in Hong Kong and ensuring a smooth transition to 1997.

Throughout the report, the premier salutes Beijing's firm commitment to developing Mr Deng's theory on building socialism with Chinese characteristics and the construction of a socialist market economy.

However, the patriarch's instructions on a high-speed model for reform and development have been shelved.