ESCAP Executive Secretary on Chinese Growth Outlook

Published ​​By The China Daily and Shanghai Daily

Date: 09 March 2012

BANGKOK, March 9 (Xinhua) — China’s economy will sustain high growth and keep boosting regional development despite a lower target for GDP growth, Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General said in an interview with Xinhua on Friday.

China will continue to be a center of growth in Asia, said Heyzer, also head of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), a UN agency on promoting development for the Asia-Pacific region.

“China’s rapid growth has protected the region from the shocks of some of the worst economic crises in the world,” she said.

China will aim for 7.5 percent economic growth this year, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Monday at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. It’s the first time China lowered its target for economic growth to less than 8 percent in eight years.

Most Asian stock markets ended lower on the news, which spurred worries that the slowdown of China, a key engine of the already slack world economy, may worsen economic prospects, especially for the Asia-Pacific region.

But Heyzer showed confidence in China’s growth. ” The country can find new drivers for growth. There are huge opportunities to invest in, such as households, infrastructure and green growth.”

China’s slowdown is mostly attributed to low demand for its export with the United States economy on a weak recovery and the Euro zone in deep recession. China needs to balance its economy, which relies too heavily on export, Heyzer said.

Heyzer urged China to focus on promoting domestic and regional consumption. ” It is critical for China to invest in households to boost domestic consumption,” she said, calling measures to narrow the income gap in China’s 12th five-year plan a good strategy.

She added China has to watch out for other economic risks, like inflation in food costs and rising commodity prices.

For the ESCAP, it is working to improve connectivity in the region to build a unified Asian market, Heyzer said. ” We need not just the hardware of highways, ports and railroads, but also the software of connectivity: the exchanges of people, goods and ideas between our countries.”

Efforts toward regional integration can open up new investment potential, bring wealth and economic growth. By linking the land- locked and least developed countries to Asia’s coastal development, we will foster a shared prosperity and tap further the economic potential of Asia Pacific, she said.