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Price control high on agenda of China's key provincial-level annual sessions

(Xinhua)

10:27, January 13, 2012

BEIJING, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- Price control remains a dominant topic at the ongoing provincial-level "Lianghui" -- "two sessions", which refers to the annual meetings of China's two top political organizations -- although the consumer price index (CPI) has been declining over the past five months.

Sessions at provincial level are considered preludes to the two annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference slated for March this year.

Economic issues are high on the agenda not only for political advisors in eastern and southern boom regions such as Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong but also those in underdeveloped inland regions including Ningxia Hui autonomous region in northwest China.

"Inflation is a particularly outstanding problem to China's western regions," said Yang Hai, a political advisor from Ningxia.

"Prices of our daily necessities like food, cooking oil, meat, vegetables, water, electricity as well as housing have been rising at a rate faster than income," Yang told Ningxia's political consultative session that started on Tuesday.

Yang's remarks echoed with a blue book report published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which indicated that 70 percent of surveyed Chinese urban and rural residents said they felt the pressure of rising prices has affected their lives over the past year.

China's CPI was up 5.4 percent in 2011 from the previous year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement Thursday.

Although the figure is well above the government's full-year inflation control target of 4 percent, inflation has been slowing down in the second half of 2011 thanks to a series of government measures.

The monthly inflation rate in Dec. 2011, which was at 4.1 percent, registered a decline in five consecutive months after hitting a 37-month high of 6.5 percent in July, according to the NBS.

China has made controlling prices a top priority in 2011 and implemented a series of measures to address the issue, including tightening monetary policy, cracking down on speculation, increasing food supplies and reducing circulation costs.

At provincial level, governments took various measures to bring inflation down.

In southwest Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the government has set price caps for meat, rice and cooking oil from August to December in 14 cities, according to Guangxi Governor Ma Biao.

In the meantime, the regional government set up a social security scheme and has since offered price subsidies of 128 million yuan (20 million U.S. dollars) to low-income residents.

Ma said Guangxi will this year continue to strengthen supervision over prices and establish a long-term price control mechanism to further bring the inflation down.

Su Ranrong, an official with Guangxi's price bureau, said the region's CPI in 2012 is likely to hit 4 percent.

Central China's Henan province also aims to bring the CPI down to 4 percent in 2012 from 5.5 percent in 2011, said Zhang Weining, director of the provincial development and reform commission, or the local economic planner.

Zhang told a press briefing on the sideline of a session of the 11th provincial people's conference that Henan would try to maintain a stable price through sufficient supply of daily necessities, lowering transportation costs and cracking down on price manipulation.

"It is possible to fulfill the goal of keeping CPI at 4 percent this year," Zhang said.

Ningxia political advisor Jin Shaoqin said another way to safeguard ordinary people's quality of life amid inflation is to hike wages.

Jin suggested the government set up special subsidy policies to ease inflation pressure upon residents in underdeveloped regions.

In cities and regions where general economic situations are better, political advisors said a subsidy program should also be put in place to help those special groups.

Shanghai political advisor Li Shiyao suggested the municipal government should offer subsidies to elderly people.

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