China may beat economic growth target of 6.5%

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Forecast expected after Beijing's economy grew 6.9 per cent in the first half

BEIJING: China will have no problem meeting its economic growth target of around 6.5 per cent this year and may beat it, the head of its Statistics Bureau said yesterday, confirming market expectations.

Steps taken by the government to rein in the overheated property market have also been effective and will remain in place, Mr Ning Jizhe told reporters in a briefing in Beijing.

Analysts have expected that full-year growth would meet or exceed the government's target after the world's second-largest economy expanded by a stronger-than-expected 6.9 per cent in the first half, fuelled by heavy government infrastructure spending and a property boom.

If growth does beat last year's 6.7 per cent, it would mark the first acceleration in the growth rate in seven years.

As fears of the economy suffering a hard landing have faded, policymakers look ready to tackle debt and push forward structural reforms.

Mr Ning's comments comes a week before a five-yearly Communist Party Congress, which will be closely watched for any leadership reshuffle and cues on broad policy directions.

While the economy could lose some momentum in coming months due to higher borrowing costs and property cooling measures, most analysts believe the slowdown will be moderate.

The World Bank last week raised its economic growth forecast for China for the year to 6.7 per cent from 6.5 per cent. It also estimated that growth will moderate at a slower pace to 6.4 per cent next year compared with a previous forecast of 6.3 per cent.

Some critics have argued China should abandon its arbitrary annual growth target or lower it to allow healthier and more sustainable economic development and become less reliant on government stimulus.

China routinely sets its gross domestic product target during a meeting towards the year-end and announces it at the country's annual Parliament meeting early the following year.

Mr Ning said survey-based unemployment in major cities was 4.83 per cent last month, the lowest since 2012. But analysts have said official figures are an unreliable indicator of employment conditions. - REUTERS