Chinese premier sees “difficult year” for prices, jobs

March 18th, 2008 - 2:39 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 18 (DPA) China could face problems in meeting its targets for controlling inflation and promoting employment this year, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has said. “I am afraid that this year might become the most difficult one for the Chinese economy,” Wen told reporters Tuesday after the National People’s Congress endorsed his economic policies designed to curb inflation and promote more sustainable growth.

“The biggest concern is price rises,” Wen told reporters.

“This has made the lives of people, particularly low income groups, more difficult,” he said.

The government wants to maintain rapid growth while preventing overheating of the economy and controlling inflation.

Wen cited “internal and external difficulties,” including the pressure of creating 10 million jobs this year, and said it was “not an easy job” to meet the government’s target of holding annual inflation at 4.8 percent.

China’s consumer price inflation hit an 11-year high in February with an 8.7 percent rise over the same month a year earlier. A 23 percent leap in food prices fuelled the rise.

Reports on the budget and economic performance were approved by a large majority of the nearly 3,000 members of the Congress, who took part in rapid electronic voting at the end of the parliament’s 14-day annual session.

The annual budget report, which included a 17.6 percent rise in military spending this year, was approved by 84 per of the 2,932 delegates present while 98 percent of delegates voted in favour of Wen’s economic report.

During its session, parliament also endorsed plans by the ruling Communist Party of China to restructure government ministries and approved second five-year terms for Wen and President Hu Jintao.

In single-candidate elections of leaders recommended by the party, it elevated Hu’s heir-apparent, 54-year-old Xi Jinping, to the vice presidency.

Li Keqiang, 52, was appointed vice premier and is seen as Wen’s likely successor.

The government restructuring plan creates five “superministries” and gives a higher profile to environmental protection and energy savings.

The large new ministries are to be responsible for environmental protection, transportation, housing and construction, industry and information, and human resources and social security.

The end of the Congress was overshadowed by the strongest anti-China protests in Tibet in 20 years.

Wen said his government had “exercised extreme restraint” in confronting protesters, accusing supporters of the exiled Dalai Lama of orchestrating the violence.

Officials Monday said at least 13 people had died in rioting Friday in Tibet’s capital Lhasa but the Tibetan government in exile said it had confirmed at least 80 deaths in the city.

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