BEIJING, March 5, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AFP) – Reining in prices is China’s “top priority” in 2011, according to a speech Premier Wen Jiabao was to deliver to the nation’s parliament Saturday, which reiterated a four percent inflation goal, AFP reported on Saturday.
The world’s second-largest economy will target eight percent growth this year, and seven percent growth in the 2011-2015 period, Wen was to say, as he outlined the country’s priorities for the coming year.
The premier acknowledged that the communist leadership has “not yet fundamentally solved a number of issues that the masses feel strongly about” — from price rises to illegal land grabs to corruption.
“Recent prices have risen fairly quickly and inflation expectations have increased,” Wen was to say.
“This problem concerns the people’s well-being, bears on overall interests and affects social stability. We must therefore make it our top priority in macroeconomic control to keep overall price levels stable.”
Soaring prices of food, housing and other essentials have become the top public concern in China and Wen’s “state of the nation” speech to the rubber-stamp parliament pledged new efforts to contain the problem.
“We will resolutely regulate the housing market. We will act more quickly to improve the long-term mechanism for regulating the real estate market,” he was to say, according to the text.
China aims to “generally stabilise housing prices and meet the reasonable demands of residents for housing,” Wen was to say.
China announced last month that January inflation remained stubbornly high at 4.9 percent despite a series of measures taken to dampen price rises, including three interest rate hikes in the past four months.
The consumer price index, the main inflation gauge, had hit a more than two-year high of 5.1 in November.
The urgency of addressing key social issues has been underlined in the past two weeks by mysterious Internet calls for weekly Sunday “strolling” rallies in major cities, which have largely fizzled under a smothering security presence.
Wen noted the “large income gap” dividing rich and poor, as well as the need to boost minimum wages.
Shanghai’s municipal government said earlier this week it would raise the minimum wage 14 percent, taking the figure in the financial hub to 1,280 yuan ($194) per month from 1,120 yuan.
Local authorities across China have been raising minimum wages to help boost domestic consumption and relieve pressure on households struggling to keep up with rising food and property prices. (*)