China will focus on employment and targeted Covid-19 curbs, Premier Li says

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang signaled a focus on jobs, flexibility on the economic growth rate and a shift toward making its Covid-19 control measures more targeted.

The most important thing was to keep employment and prices stable and that slightly higher or lower growth rates were acceptable as long as employment is relatively sufficient, household income grows and prices are stable, according to state media accounts of his comments to global business leaders hosted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday (July 19).

Li added that outbound commerce and trade activities, as well as cross-border travel for labor services, would be advanced in an orderly fashion.

Li said, “Keeping major economic indicators within a proper range also means that the macro economy can enjoy sustained and sound growth.”

He also said China would further resume and increase international passenger flights and steadily improve its visa and Covid-testing policies.

China’s second-half outlook is clouded by Covid-19 outbreaks and the ensuing restrictions intended to control them.

Economic growth slowed sharply to 0.4 percent in the second quarter, when dozens of cities including Shanghai and Changchun imposed lockdowns.

Many economists expect China will likely miss its economic growth target of about 5.5 percent this year by a significant margin.

That would be the first time: The government didn’t set a target in 2020, during the first wave of the corona virus outbreak, and only missed it slightly by 0.2 percentage point in 1998.

Prominent economists in China have also warned the country could miss its target. Gross domestic product may expand about 4.8 percent this year, according to Professor Liu Yuanchun, president of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, citing pro-growth policies that could lift growth above 6 percent in the third quarter.

Li said that for the economy to rebound in the second half, the government will need to keep outbreaks under control without resorting to damaging, widespread lockdowns, while also supporting growth through more spending even as the budget blows out. The government has set up a dedicated mechanism to offer services and help resolve concerns that foreign enterprises encounter in the country.

Foreign companies have bemoaned China’s restrictive policies, with nearly one in four European companies considering shifting their investments out of the country, according to a survey released last month. American firms have also reported challenges.

 

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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