Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wen Jiabao: Agricultural Work for 2012

On July 31, Wen Jiabao addressed a meeting of the State Council where he discussed six points for government work this year. The main themes included worries about how the slow world economy is affecting China, keeping the funding spigot turned on, ensuring supplies of basic commodities like food and housing to keep the masses happy.

Wen said this is an important year for implementing the new five-year plan, it's the final year for the current leadership, and the task of reform and development is arduous. He said the government needs to get the views of the common people and make sure decisions are based on the interests of the masses and based on the actual situation.

Wen said impacts and pressure from the world financial crisis had become evident over the past year and China now faces an important period of strategic opportunity with many favorable conditions for sustaining relatively fast economic growth. Wen: "We must inspire the people, mobilize the people, strengthen the confidence of all peoples nationwide, utilizing every favorable environment and factor, meet challenges, overcome difficulties, and maintain stable economic growth."

The discussion of agricultural work is brief and terse. The first point (and the only one described by multiple sentences) is to continue doing a good job on "macro control." Wen worried about the current international economy and called for watching carefully for signs of economic trouble. Policy interventions should be targeted and flexible. There seems to be an undercurrent of concern about the financial system; he says that it is vital to ensure stable funding for important State projects, start new projects in an orderly manner and make sure that spending on projects keeps rising steadily. He called for emphasis on credit support for small and medium enterprises.

In a seeming reversal from the general trend in Chinese industry structure, Wen called for expanding market access, promoting fair competition and encouraging private enterprise. This contrasts with the "state in, private out" (国进,推民) trend, and plans for industry consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, and raising the threshold for entering industries (for example, there was a paragraph on the seed industry with this type of verbiage in the "Number 1 document" just released). This call for private enterprise probably reflects the effects of the current economic slowdown which is hitting small businesses hard while big companies are kept on life support by bank loans.

Wen's second point is an emphasis on agricultural production. He tells us to implement the spirit of the "number 1 document" and to implement all the agricultural policies and subsidies. Do a good job preparing for spring planting, stabilize grain plantings and expand production of crops that are in short supply or good quality. Monitor markets for seeds and other farm inputs [watch out for fakes and price-gouging], prevent animal disease epidemics, and prevent fires in forests and grasslands.

Wen's third point is to maintain strict control over the real estate market and prevent inflationary speculation. Adopt measures to increase the supply of common [i.e. low cost] commercial housing.

Wen calls for stabilizing exports and continuing to upgrade the structure of exports. He calls for keeping an eye on the supply of key non-ag commodities like coal, electricity, oil, and gas to make sure supplies are not disrupted and prevent unspecified major incidents.

Wen's final point is to implement  policies that protect peoples' living standards. This includes an integrated system of minimum living standards [welfare], unemployment insurance and controls to prevent spikes in prices [of food and other necessities]. Strengthen monitoring of the quality and safety of food and drugs and the safety of school buses and other transportation.

Perhaps the speech calls for good work to ensure a positive legacy for the Hu-Wen administration in their final year at the helm. Wen concludes with: "Let us all, under the central communist party leadership of General Secretary Hu Jintao, forge ahead, rely on the people of the whole nation, innovate, work hard, welcoming with honors the victorious convening of the 18th [communist party congress]."

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