China's growth target flexible: finance minister

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 06 2014 01:23 PM | Updated as of Mar 06 2014 09:23 PM

BEIJING - China's finance minister suggested Thursday that a growth rate of "7.2 percent or 7.3 percent" would be acceptable, a day after the country announced a 2014 target of "around 7.5 percent".

China is the world's second-largest economy and a key driver of global growth, with its expansion goals closely watched.

At the opening Wednesday of the National People's Congress, its Communist-controlled parliament, Premier Li Keqiang announced a target of "around 7.5 percent" for gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year, the same as the 2013 benchmark.

But Lou Jiwei emphasised that it, along with other forecasts such as for inflation, were "rough" estimates qualified by the word "around", and said a lower figure would not be a problem for the government as long as jobs growth was strong.

"For example, if this year's actual growth is 7.2 percent or 7.3 percent, it's still around 7.5 percent," Lou said, adding that job creation was the "most important" of the targets.

"Therefore where GDP growth is on which side of 7.5 percent and how big the margin is not that important," he said.

"What is important is employment."

In his speech on Wednesday, Li also identified job creation as a key factor, saying China was targeting the addition of 10 million new urban jobs in 2014, one million more than last year.

"Employment is the basis of people's well-being," he said.

The country will have 7.27 million new university graduates this year, he said.

China's economy grew 7.7 percent in 2013, the same as in 2012 -- which was the slowest rate of growth since 1999's 7.6 percent. The last time expansion was any lower was in 1990, when it was measured at 3.8 percent.

Beijing says it wants to transform the country's economic growth model away from an over-reliance on often wasteful investment, and instead make private demand the driver of future development.

The leadership expects the change to result in slower but more sustainable rates of expansion.

Li also said the government would keep the target for the increase in the consumer price index at about 3.5 percent, the same as last year's. Inflation was tame in 2013, with the CPI rising 2.6 percent.

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