China's leadership yesterday pledged to boost domestic consumption and promote urbanisation while maintaining pro-growth policies at the end of a conference to draw up economic plans for next year. The mainland would also continue its 'moderately loose' monetary policy, said a statement released after the three-day annual Central Economic Work Conference, which was chaired by President Hu Jintao and attended by all the top leaders, including Premier Wen Jiabao . Policymakers vowed to keep in place stimulus policies aimed at preventing a renewed downturn. They emphasised the need to increase domestic demand, particularly private consumption. They pledged to maintain appropriate investment growth while ensuring steady growth in exports. A year after Beijing launched its 4 trillion yuan (HK$4.54 trillion) stimulus package aimed at countering the impact of slumping exports, economists said they expected gross domestic product this year to grow by more than the government's target of 8 per cent. The world's third-largest economy has seen a strong recovery in recent months. Growth rebounded to 8.9 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, up from 7.9 per cent in the second quarter and 6.1 per cent in the first three months, which was the slowest pace in more than a decade. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, forecast economic growth would accelerate to 9.1 per cent next year and that inflation would hit 2 per cent after falling to 0.5 per cent this year. The policymakers made no major changes to the economic plan adopted late last year to combat the global financial crisis. 'Again, its about stability and continuity in macroeconomic policies,' Ting Lu and T. J. Bond, economists at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, said. However, they said that a careful reading of the statement showed that the government would try to improve the economy in two key areas: urbanisation and consumption. The policymakers' statement said the government would 'try to make marked progress in restructuring China's economy by steadily pushing forward urbanisation and optimising the structure of industry next year'. The government planned to encourage farmers to migrate to cities and at the same time ease restrictions on gaining permanent residency in the nation's small and medium-sized cities, it said. The wealth gap between urban and rural areas is one of the biggest in the world and the hukou system of residence permits, introduced in the 1950s to restrict the movement of farmers to the cities - where they can enjoy much better social security and welfare benefits - has been criticised for contributing to this disparity. Lu and Bond said they still believed the likely time for a change in policy would be next spring. Tim Condon, head of Asian research for Dutch financial group ING, expects a gradual tightening in monetary policy, with the interest rate paid on bank deposits rising in each of the next four quarters. Lu and Bond said the short-term impact of yesterday's statement would be limited. They do not expect to see banks required to increase the proportion of assets they hold as liquid reserves, or rising interest rates, and do not foresee movement in the yuan-US dollar exchange rate 'in the next several months'. But Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS Securities, said the government would adjust its macroeconomic policy objectives to add 'managing inflation expectations' and 'adjusting economic structure' to its growth targets. 'We expect no withdrawal of the fiscal stimulus in 2010 and expect some adjustment in planned spending to focus somewhat more on promoting consumption,' Wang said.