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November 30, 2016

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Private capital set to power consumption

TO improve consumer goods, increase supply and make the tertiary sector a new growth driver, China will allow more investment from private and non-government entities, according to an official with the top economic planner yesterday.

“With its huge consumption potential, China needs to improve the institutional environment to increase the flow of (non-government) capital to help upgrade consumer goods and increase supply,” Zhao Lidong, an official of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a press conference.

Consumers want higher-quality products and services, while farmers, driven by faster income growth, are consuming more goods compared with their urban counterparts, according to Zhao.

To address this situation, the central government on Monday issued guidelines to boost consumption of services, as it believes more consumption in these areas will help improve people’s lives, and contribute to economic restructuring and new growth.

Tourism, elderly care, and the cultural, sports and health industries were earmarked as areas to benefit from investment, as well as education and training.

“Some stadiums, for example, have been left idle. We will encourage their owners to open their facilities to the public and help them find investment,” said Zhao.

He said the authorities will guide consumers toward energy-efficient products and develop standards for emerging technology and products such as smart homes and wearable devices.

He noted the government will also unveil higher standards for domestic products to draw consumers who usually buy foreign products.

China’s economic restructuring is beginning to bear fruit, with consumption playing a more conspicuous role in growth, accounting for 71 percent of GDP growth in the first three quarters, 13.3 percentage points higher than a year earlier.

Authorities will also open up the elderly care market since the nation’s aging population brings great opportunities for this industry, said Hao Fuqing, another NDRC official.

It is no secret that China’s aging society is one of the nation’s foremost social issues. There are now more than 220 million people over 60 years old, 16.1 percent of the population, and both the absolute number and the percentage are growing.

Of the senior citizens, 15.3 percent believe they need to be taken care of, more than double the number in 2000, and a big pressure on the government.

Hao said the government will allow all types of entities, including private enterprises, non-profit groups and foreign companies, to explore opportunities in the elderly care sector.

“We will guide mergers and acquisitions to develop large-scale elderly care groups and encourage use of new technologies to provide meticulous services for the elderly,” he added.

Shuttered plants and office buildings in urban areas will be transformed into facilities for the elderly, according to the official.

China has made a cautious but significant step to address the challenges brought about by an aging population by allowing local pension funds more leeway with their investment choices.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said in October that a group of local governments will entrust their pension funds from this year with the National Council for Social Security Fund for more diversified investment.


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