2023 growth target at “around 5%”
In his last Government Work Report delivered to the National People’s Congress (China’s national legislature), the outgoing Premier Li Keqiang set a national real GDP growth target of “around 5%” for 2023, which is at the lower end of expectations ranging from 5% to 5.5% going into the meeting. The figure is lower than the weighted average of provincial targets of 5.6% for 2023 and the 2022 national target of “around 5.5%”.
The “around 5%” target is the lowest ever except for 2020 when the Chinese Government did not set a GDP growth target in the midst of Covid-19. Beijing may prefer setting a lower bar after missing massively with a 3% print for actual GDP growth in 2022 versus a target of around 5.5%.
Other key macroeconomic targets include adding 12 million jobs to urban area employment for 2023, similar to the realized figure of 12.06 million in 2022, and an urban unemployment rate of around 5.5% for 2023, unchanged from the realized unemployment rate in 2022.
The target of consumer inflation for 2023 is set at 3%, higher than the 2% realized inflation rate in 2022.
The fiscal deficit target is set at 3% of the GDP
The fiscal deficit target is set at 3% of the nominal GDP, slightly higher than market expectations and the 2.8% target last year. If excluding the transfer of RMB1.9 trillion from the fiscal stabilization fund and other pockets of the Government that reduced the deficit figure, the fiscal deficit will be around 4.5% of GDP, down slightly from 4.7% in 2022.
The issuance quotas for central government general bonds (CGGB), local government general bonds (LGGB), and local government special bonds (LGSB) are set at RMB3.16 trillion, RMB0.72 trillion, and RMB 3.8 trillion respectively, bringing the aggregate quota of net government bond issuance to RMB 7.68 trillion in 2023, slightly higher than the RMB 7.52 trillion quotas in 2022. The Government Work Report specifically highlighted that the RMB 3.8 trillion local government special bonds (LGSB) will be deployed to speed up the major infrastructure projects in the 14th Five-year plan (2021-2025) and urban renewal projects.
Boosting consumption is a policy priority
Following the script of the Central Economic Work Conference held in December 2022, the Government Work Report emphasizes the importance of boosting domestic aggregate demand, in particular household consumption.
Monetary policies aim to be steady, targeted, and forceful
Once again, the Chinese Government emphasizes that monetary policies are to support the real economy. It is reiterated that monetary policies aim to be steady, targeted, and forceful.
Housing is for living in, not for speculation
The phrase “housing is for living in, not for speculation” is back. The Government Work Report makes it clear that the support to the housing sector will focus on affordable housing, developing a long-term rental market, and stabilizing land prices, housing prices, and housing price expectations. It signals that it is not to inflate speculative activities again in housing and calls for avoiding the disorderly expansion of property developers which may cause systemic risks to the financial system. The report calls for resolving the risks of top-quality developers and ensuring the improvement of their balance sheets.
Deepening SOE reform and encouraging private enterprises to grow
The Government Work Report calls for deepening the reform of state-owned enterprises and enhancing their competitiveness. The report reiterates the rhetoric of encouraging private enterprises to grow and support the internet platform economy.
A measured report aims at achieving stability
The tone and the policy initiatives set out in the Government Work Report are measured. The growth target for 2023 sets a low bar as the focus of the Chinese authorities seems to be more on stability than on acceleration in growth. Positive gestures are made to boost the confidence of the private sector as the report acknowledges that the private sector’s confidence in making investments has been lacking for various reasons.
What to watch this week
The key events to watch on the agenda of the National People’s Congress (NPC) this week are the presentation of the state institution reform proposal on Tuesday and the announcement of the appointment of top leaders and senior officials from Friday to Sunday, especailly . The the premiership on Saturday and other State Council, ministerial, and central bank key offices on Sunday. NPC will conclude next Monday morning, March 13.