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Boost for western areas mulled

Wang Yanfei
Updated: Aug 31,2018 8:56 AM     China Daily

More measures are in the pipeline to boost investment in infrastructure in China’s western areas, a senior official with the nation’s top economic regulator said on Aug 30.

The planned measures will seek to stem the investment downtrend that may hinder balanced development of the economy, he said.

“Weighed down by a decline in fixed-asset investment growth, economic development in some western parts witnessed a major decline,” said Xiao Weiming, an official from the National Development and Reform Commission.

“The government will take more targeted measures in the second half of this year to prevent the short-term decline from turning into a long-term downtrend,” Xiao said.

In the first seven months of this year, fixed-asset investment in the western region increased by only 2.3 percent year-on-year, down 1.1 percentage points from the 3.4 percent rise in the January-June period, NDRC data showed.

Vast but relatively underdeveloped compared to eastern parts, China’s western region has seen imbalances in economic growth of late.

For instance, Guizhou is the only province of the nation to record double-digital economic growth (10 percent year-on-year) in the first half, while Qinghai’s GDP grew just 5.9 percent year-on-year in the same period.

As the western region is facing key developmental challenges, such as increasing constraints on land and capital, the government will adopt more targeted measures to help the region to catch up with other more developed eastern provinces, Xiao said.

Among the planned measures are impetus to local businesses, the introduction of more policies to help the region strengthen economic ties with neighboring countries, and a push for better participation in projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Xiao said the creation of new infrastructure remains a key objective for development in the western region.

Some infrastructure projects that figured among the 152 key projects in the region, were initially expected to finish by 2023, but have been completed already, NDRC data showed.

By the end of 2023, the western region is expected to see major improvement in the construction of infrastructure, with an additional 8,751 kilometers of highways, 3,219 km of new high-speed railroads and 187 gigawatts of power capacity, according to the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) for development in the western region.