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Financiers urge urgent reform to ease burden on industry

By Chen Jia  (China Daily)

13:25, September 29, 2012

Some of China's top financiers and academics have called for urgent reform of the country's financial services sector, to bring it up to the standards of its international counterparts, but also to allow it to service the country's key sectors, as they struggle through the economic downturn.

Gathering to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Hebei Finance University, experts said that without higher levels of sophistication, and a more flexible approach to financial services being offered, companies in manufacturing and production, and service industries in particular, could find it hard to survive the current climate, let alone expand.

Yang Zhaoting, vice-president of the university, said those two sectors are vital to tame what could become a depression.

He accepted that to get to the level of financial innovation needed could prove a long process, but he urged his guests to focus on providing the urgent, basic finances needed by struggling business and industry customers, especially in some of the country's hardest-hit rural regions.

"To chase rapid internationalization, and blindly learn from foreign models, could be very harmful to local financial development," he said.

Wang Xingnan, head of the financial department of Guangdong Finance University, added that any future innovations should be focused on helping struggling manufacturers, and in particular those involved in import and export activities.

"It is urgent now to accelerate any necessary changes needed to support sustainable improvement of the finance sector, which would help promote the real economy," he said.

The call for financial reform comes as China's economic growth has slowed for 10 consecutive quarters, with GDP falling to 7.6 in the second quarter from 8.1 percent in the first quarter, amid dramatically reduced demand for Chinese goods, particularly from European countries.

Economists expect third-quarter growth to continue decelerating, as a result of falling manufacturing output, and are calling for more stimulus policies from the central government to kick-start momentum.

Wang added that the banking and finance sector may well enjoy the highest income of any sector in China this year, which may lead to growing calls for better income distribution.

Liu Jiansheng, the former deputy provincial governor in Heibei, added that investment in education "remains key for any sustainable and healthy development of the financial industry".

Any national financial services reform, he said, would require considerable strengthening of its service capability, for instance, and to focus on its overall international competitiveness.

"The production and service industries will need more support from a more advanced financial sector to boost economic growth," he added.

Chen Zunhou, the president of Hebei Finance University, added that more investment was needed in financial higher education, as demands grow for expertise from regional economic development bodies, and the financial industry as a whole, particularly as it expands overseas.

He said that for decades, the university had been committed to developing economic and financial expertise, mainly in the fields of business management, accounting and banking, and that it was well-known as "a cradle of future financiers".

He claimed that hundreds of graduates from the university now have leading positions in Chinese financial system, including leaders of the central bank, the State-owned "Big Four" commercial banks, and industrial associations.

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