|Xinhua File Photo
By Yang Lina, Bi Mingxin and Chen Zhi
BEIJING, May 28 (Xinhuanet) -- China is making all-out efforts to encourage private investment in more heavily state-controlled and monopolized sectors amid concerns that its economy might slow further in the coming months.
Since China's transport, railway and health ministries issued guidelines last month to permit private capital to develop those sectors energetically, the banking sector and the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have joined in the drive.
The move came in line with other recent measures announced by the central government to open state-controlled and monopolized sectors wider to private investment, in a bid to stimulate tepid economic growth.
Being drafted are detailed rules concerning private investment in more monopolized industries, such as electricity, oil and natural gas, said an official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner.
The NDRC will also release a series of rules in May or June regarding better monitoring and analysis of private investment and improving engineering consulting services for private investment, the official said.
These efforts are considered by experts as the greatest push made by the Chinese government to bolster its private sector in recent years.
Encouraging private investment in previously state-controlled sectors was made a priority by the State Council, or China's cabinet, at the beginning of this year. These sectors include railways, municipal administration, finance, energy, telecommunications, education and health care.
As a matter of fact, this is not the first time China vowed to bolster private investment, as the Chinese government formulated policies in support of private capital in 2005 and in 2010, respectively. However, progress has been relatively slow, especially in the financial and energy sectors.
But this time, as the guidelines are more specific and detailed, experts agree that they will inject new vitality into China's economic growth.
"If these policies are implemented, they will greatly energize the private sector and boost economic efficiency," said Li Xunlei, chief economist at Haitong Securities.
EFFECTIVE LEVER TO STABILIZE GROWTH
Analysts say that allowing private investment in the state-controlled and monopolized industries will not only advance the development of these sectors, but also shore up the economic weakness.
Previously, since people often complained about the high charges and poor services of electricity, banking and telecommunications industries, the government considered inviting private capital to break monopoly and improve services.
But now as China faces increasing downward risks and inflation pressure, the Chinese government has to achieve a balance between controlling inflation and maintaining growth.
Given this situation, “The government can vitalize the economy and maintain growth by encouraging and guiding private investment in monopolized sectors without taking expansionary policies,” said Zhou Yean, professor with the School of Economics of Renmin University of China.
He added that the healthy development of private investment will also be conducive to the regulation on the real estate market, as property bubbles were caused partly by excessive private capital that did not have other better way out.
China's private investment has enjoyed leapfrog development in recent year, said Wang Xiaotao, head of fixed-asset investment at the NDRC.
Private investment jumped by 28.9 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period of last year, accounting for 61.9 percent of China's total fixed-asset investment, up 4.6 percentage points, according to Wang.
Nonetheless, private investment still confronts various development bottlenecks. For major private enterprises, their shares in primary sectors, such as electricity, education, health care, finance, transport and water conservancy, have to be increased.
Statistics showed that private investment in the electricity and thermal power sector accounts for just 13.6 percent, and only 9.6 percent in the financial industry.
Moreover, small- and medium-sized private enterprises have long been baffled by financing difficulties due to limited financing channels, Wang noted.
Lu Zhongyuan, vice president of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said, “Amid the economic downturn, if the government could relax the entry criteria for private investment in financial, health care and service industries while effectively reducing tax burdens for small- and medium-sized firms, it will be good news for the next phase of development.”
It has been an agreed view that developing and supporting private investment can make it a major force in bolstering economic development, adjusting the country’s economic structure, increasing tax revenues, increasing employment and improving people's livelihood.
In addition, private investment faces pressing tasks in transforming the economic development model, Wang Xiaotao said.
Private investment, most of which went to the manufacturing and service industries, remained in the lower end of industrial chains.
As China is at a critical stage in economic restructuring, efforts to contain blind expansion of certain industries and close down outdated production facilities will add pressure to private enterprise, but at the same time provide a rare opportunity for their transformation.
Therefore, private investment is shifting from “quantitative expansion” to “qualitative improvement”, and pressing ahead with its structural adjustment is a pivotal task for the sustainable development of the private sector.