Beijing is aiming for greater economic growth this year even though it is already feeling the pinch of the global financial crisis, the capital's mayor declared in his annual address to the city's legislature yesterday. Guo Jinlong said his administration would 'strive to help realise an annual 9 per cent expansion' in the capital's gross domestic product, while keeping the unemployment rate under 2.5 per cent. A strategy meeting among the country's top economic policymakers last month in Beijing set the national GDP growth target for this year at 8 per cent. And officials from the central government expect the jobless rate to climb to about 5 per cent because of a downturn triggered by the financial crisis. While nationwide statistics for last year are expected to be announced in a couple of months, Mr Guo said Beijing posted GDP growth of 9 per cent last year. He admitted that the global economic turmoil was taking an increasing toll on Beijing through sharp slowdowns in such sectors as property and manufacturing. 'But we do have many advantages that will help us ride out this storm,' Mr Guo said at the opening day of the annual plenary session of the Beijing People's Congress. Economist Zhao Hong, of the government-sponsored think-tank the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, echoed the mayor's optimism. 'When you have a breakdown in Beijing's economy, you find the capital is better positioned than other metropolises in the country to withstand the impact of the world economy,' Dr Zhao said. 'To sum it up, we rely less on external demand.' Dr Zhao said academy research suggested that domestic consumption-driven growth accounted for more than half of Beijing's annual GDP growth, a factor that would ease the blows felt in such manufacturing-heavy and export-dependent provinces as Guangdong and Zhejiang . By contrast, domestic personal consumption had accounted for only about 35 per cent of the economy in 2007. The investment in public infrastructure would run up to about 120 billion yuan (HK$136 billion) for this year and next year, representing at least a two-fold increase from normal years, as part of a nationwide 4 trillion yuan stimulus package, Dr Zhao revealed. 'This new investment will generate new momentum for growth, partly offsetting those adversities,' he said.