Politics

Citing ‘great uncertainty,’ Beijing will not set 2020 growth target

(Update 1 adds defense budget in pars 5-7, changes headline)

Beijing, May 22 (efe-epa).- China will not set a target for economic growth this year due to “great uncertainty” regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the global economic and trade environment, the Chinese prime minister announced at the opening session of the 13th National People’s Congress on Friday.

“We have not set a specific target for economic growth this year. This is because our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict in its development, due to the great uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment,” Li Keqiang told the 3,000 delegates gathered from around the country for China’s main annual political event.

“Not setting a specific target for economic growth will enable all of us to concentrate on ensuring stability on the six fronts and security in the six areas,” he added.

The six fronts include employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment and economic outlook, the prime minister said, while the six areas would be those related to job security, the basic necessities of life, market operations, food and energy security.

The government also announced Friday that its defense budget for 2020 will be 1.27 trillion yuan ($178.33 billion), 6.6 percent more than last year.

This will be the fifth consecutive year in which the defense budget will grow in single digits, state-run news agency Xinhua said. In the previous five years it had risen to double-digit growth. China’s investment in defense grew at 7.6 percent in 2016, 7 percent in 2017, 8.1 percent in 2018 and 7.5 percent in 2019.

Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the NPC, said at a press conference Thursday that China’s defense spending is transparent with “no such thing as ‘hidden’ military spending” and has remained at around 1.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, well below the global average of 2.6 percent.

Among the country’s objectives for 2020, PM Li considered ensuring stable economic performance to be “of crucial significance” and said that the country needed to “pursue reform and opening up as a means to stabilize employment, ensure people’s wellbeing, stimulate consumption, energize the market, and achieve stable growth.”

Li said that this year China will give priority to stabilizing employment and ensuring living standards, winning the battle against poverty, and achieving the goal of building a “moderately prosperous society in all respects.”

To this end, China will aim to create more than 9 million new urban jobs and achieve an overall surveyed unemployment rate of 6 percent and a registered urban unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.

China has set an inflation target of 3.5 percent for 2020 and is aiming to achieve a basic equilibrium in the balance of payments, as well as that the growth in personal income is in line with the country’s economic growth.

It also proposes eliminating poverty among rural residents living under the poverty line and in all poor districts.

Li also advocated effective prevention and control of major financial risks and a further decline in energy consumption per unit of GDP.

Other objectives include pursuing a “more proactive” fiscal policy and a deficit-to-GDP ratio of more than 3.6 percent with a year-on-year increase in deficit of one trillion yuan ($140.57 billion).

China will also issue 1 trillion yuan of government bonds to control the pandemic. EFE-EPA

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