Spending by government may boost economy

Updated: 2011-12-14 07:11

By Cynthia Chen (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The government has room for maneuver on the economic front if the US outlook does not improve and Europe remains mired in the debt crisis, a deputy chief of the World Bank said.

"Government spending, rather than bank lending, may be used to boost the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors to ensure economic expansion in 2012," Lin Yifu, the World Bank's senior vice-president and chief economist, said in an interview with China Daily.

Spending by government may boost economy

Lin acknowledged that the eurozone's worsening sovereign debt crisis as well as the sluggish US economy would take a toll on the world's second-largest economy in the coming year. But a hard landing is unlikely, he said, and predicted that GDP growth will stay above 8 percent in 2012.

He was speaking as senior Chinese leaders held their annual Central Economic Work Conference in Beijing to hammer out a framework for 2012 economic policies.

President Hu Jintao said last week that the country will maintain robust economic growth in the year ahead. Prudent monetary and proactive fiscal policies may come more into play.

However, a slight shift in macroeconomic policies is possible, considering that inflation has eased, analysts and economists have suggested.

The November consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, declined sharply to 4.2 percent, the year's lowest, from a 37-month high of 6.5 percent in July, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Economists predict that inflation in 2012 may drop to less than 4 percent.

Wang Tao, head of China economic research at UBS Securities, expected slightly more flexibility.

"The government is likely to target 8 percent GDP growth and 4 percent inflation in 2012, supported by a proactive fiscal policy and a stable monetary policy," she said.

Government investment is expected to contribute more to GDP next year, Lin said.

"The government has much less debt (about 25 percent of GDP) than many developed countries, so any concern about a debt crisis in China is groundless," he said.

"But bank lending should be tightened because easing monetary policy may increase market liquidity and inflation may be revived."

China's fiscal revenue had climbed to 9.73 trillion yuan ($1.53 trillion) at the end of November, 26.8 percent higher than a year earlier.

It exceeded the year's budget of 8.97 trillion yuan for central and local governments, according to data released by the Ministry of Finance on Sunday.

Meanwhile, fiscal expenditure increased to 8.9 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 24.3 percent, the ministry said.

Some economists forecast that policymakers might cut taxes next year to spur domestic consumption while funding infrastructure projects.

Xia Bin, a member of the monetary policy committee of the People's Bank of China, said that fiscal policies are crucial for economic restructuring.

Effective fiscal spending can support the upgrade of strategic industries, including those in the energy and high-tech sectors, especially for small- and medium-sized companies, he said.

Lin said that sluggish developed economies can learn from China's stimulus launched after the 1997 Asia financial crisis.

"The key is to increase productivity in the core economy and lower unemployment by increasing manufacturing rather than expanding the financial system," he said.

China rolled out a stimulus of 4 trillion yuan in 2008 to combat the financial crisis, and the package helped its economy grow 8.7 percent in 2009, the best performer of the world's major economies.