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January 12, 2012

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City to seize opportunity for economic growth

Shanghai will provide greater development space and assistance to entrepreneurs in its bid to become a world-class economic center, Mayor Han Zheng said yesterday.

"We will be challenged by a more complex external economic environment in 2012. But we shall have firm confidence and grasp all opportunities to realize a steady economic growth through further innovations," Han said when he delivered his annual government work report at the opening of the Shanghai People's Congress.

More than 800 members of the city's top legislative body are attending the weeklong session to review the government's work in the past year and discuss its plans for the year ahead.

While reiterating the government's determination to support and encouraging innovation, the mayor also stressed that the city's economic development would be improved by relying less on the real estate market.

Skyrocketing housing prices have stirred heated debate in recent years.

New apartments

Han said the government will continue with its policies aiming to bring down the prices of new residential apartments.

He said the city would continue to implement the central government's package of policies aimed at cooling the property market while increasing land supply and deepening property tax reforms.

Shanghai would also build more affordable apartments and public rental houses for low-income families.

Shanghai reported the first monthly drop in prices of new residential apartments in October. For the whole of 2011, new residential apartments were sold at an average of 22,432 yuan (US$3,532) per square meter, according to estimates.

Reliance on investment, heavy and chemical industries and intensive labor processing sector will be reduced, Han added.

"In the new year, the government will focus on the city's steady economic growth, advancing economic restructuring as well as further boosting public services and safety," Han said.

Among major government projections for social development, gross domestic product (GDP) growth is set at around 8 percent for 2012, the mayor said in his report. GDP growth last year was over 8 percent.

Han said Shanghai withstood pressure from the global economic turndown last year and reached its planned social and economic development goals. To sustained applause, he thanked the city's residents for contributing to such outstanding achievements under difficult economic circumstances.

'The real heroes'

"Looking back, we realized clearly that the people are the real heroes who have made possible all the city has achieved."

Shanghai is to advance its high-end financial service industry programs and continue to focus on attracting more foreign financial groups this year to establish headquarters and agencies.

Major infrastructure construction such as the revamp and expansion of local airports will be speeded up to realize the city's goal of becoming a global financial, shipping and trade hub.

Shanghai will also start stricter measures to monitor and protect water resources and accelerate the construction of a new reservoir. The Dongfeng Xisha Reservoir, near Chongming Island, will benefit more than 700,000 residents when it is completed in 2014..

In his report, Han hails innovators as "the hope of a vigorous city." He said the government would save no effort to "widen the development space, give more trust, tolerance and assistance" for professionals and business start-ups with innovative ideas.

Shanghai would improve incentives to attract foreign and domestic professionals with a package of new schemes.

The government would also shift its focus from downtown to the city's less developed suburbs. "The suburban area offers vast space for the city to further its innovation-driven development," Han said.

Public services such as education and traffic are expected to have major facelifts to provide grounds for sound development. Three Metro links would be built to improve commuting between suburban new towns and the city center.

The city will build 30 new primary and middle schools and 40 kindergartens this year. Most of them in the suburbs with experienced teachers transferred from downtown schools.

Investment in public education will rise to 15 percent of local government fiscal spending, up from about 13.8 percent last year, Han said.

Shanghai Development and Reform Commission officials told the meeting that the second phase of Metro Line 13 will kick off this year while the construction of the northern extension to Line 11 and 12 and first phase of Line 13 and 16 will continue. Blueprints will be drawn up for an extension of Line 5 and a Metro link for the Disneyland project.

Mayor sets out key goals for the year ahead

Annual GDP growth of around 8 percent

Registered unemployment rate within 4.5 percent

Investment in environmental protection 3 percent of GDP

Incubate 10,000 entrepreneurs

11 million square meters of affordable housing

Build 500 hectares of public green areas

Set up 5,000 new WiFi hot spots

Build 30 new elementary schools and 40 kindergartens

Hold 200-plus low-price art shows and cultural performances


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