Full Text: Report on the Work of the Government

Huang Panyue

I now wish to discuss our major areas of work for 2017.

Confronted with the formidable tasks of reform and development and maintaining stability this year, we must keep in mind the big picture and adopt a holistic approach, have clear priorities and focus on key tasks, and properly handle interactions among various sectors. We should give priority to the following areas of work.

1. Pushing ahead with the five priority tasks through reform

We should, on the basis of consolidating and building on what we have achieved, improve our policies and measures in light of new developments and new problems so as to make greater progress.

Take solid and effective steps to cut overcapacity

This year, we will further reduce steel production capacity by around 50 million metric tons and shut down at least 150 million metric tons of coal production facilities. At the same time, we will suspend or postpone construction on or eliminate no less than 50 million kilowatts of coal-fired power generation capacity in order to guard against and defuse the risks of overcapacity in coal-fired power, improve the efficiency of this sector, optimize the energy mix, and make room for clean energy to develop.

We will strictly enforce all laws, regulations, and standards on environmental protection, energy consumption, quality, and safety and make more use of market- and law-based methods as we work to address the problems of "zombie enterprises," encourage enterprise mergers, restructuring, and bankruptcy liquidations, shut down all outdated production facilities that fail to meet standards, and stringently control the launching of new projects in industries that are already saddled with overcapacity.

As overcapacity is cut, we must provide assistance to laid-off workers. Central government special funds for rewards and subsidies should be promptly allocated and local governments and enterprises need to put in place related funds and measures, to ensure that laid-off workers can find new jobs and secure their livelihoods.

Take targeted policies to cut excess urban real estate inventory

At present, there is still excess supply in the real estate markets of third- and fourth-tier cities. We will support both local and new residents in buying homes for personal use.

We need to be clear that housing is for people to live in, and local governments should take primary responsibility in this respect. We should move faster to establish robust long-term mechanisms for promoting the steady and sound development of the real estate sector and build a better housing system that gives equal weight to buying and renting, with multiple levels of demand being met primarily by the market, and basic housing support provided by the government. We will take more category-based and targeted steps to regulate the real estate market. Cities that are under big pressure from rising housing prices need to increase as appropriate the supply of land for residential use. We should better regulate housing development, marketing, and intermediary services, and keep home prices from rising too quickly in popular cities.

Today several dozen million people still live in rundown areas in cities and towns. We must continue housing renovations in these areas. This year, we will renovate another 6 million housing units in these areas, continue to develop public rental housing and other forms of government-subsidized housing, base measures on local circumstances and use multiple means to increase the use of monetary compensation for those affected by such rebuilding, and improve local infrastructure and public services. With these efforts, we will help more families struggling with housing to bid farewell to rundown areas, and see that with good roofs over their heads our people move on to better lives.

Carry out deleveraging in an active and prudent way

There is high leverage in nonfinancial Chinese firms. This is caused by high savings rates and the composition of financing which is primarily based on credit. While working to control overall leverage, we should focus on bringing down the leverage of enterprises. We need to see that the idle assets of enterprises are put to use, push ahead with securitization of corporate assets, support market- and law-based debt-to-equity swaps, develop the multilevel capital market, expand equity financing, and place tighter constraints on enterprises, especially SOEs, in leveraging, so as to gradually reduce enterprise debt to an acceptable level.

Take multiple measures to cut costs

More small businesses with low profits will enjoy halved corporate income tax, with the upper limit of taxable annual income raised from 300,000 to 500,000 yuan. For small and medium high-tech enterprises, the proportion of R&D expenses covered by the additional tax reduction policy is to be raised from 50 to 75 percent. We will do all we can to see the intensity and impact of structural tax cuts deliver further results. The great number of charges have placed an unbearable burden on many businesses; we are going to slash non-tax burdens.

First, we will completely overhaul government-managed funds, abolish municipal public utility surcharges, and authorize local governments to reduce and cancel some funds.

Second, we will abolish or suspend 35 administrative charges paid by enterprises to the central government, again cutting the number of charges by more than half; and then reduce as far as possible those that still apply. Local governments also need to make significant cuts to government administrative fees.

Third, we will reduce government-set operating fees for businesses. Unauthorized fees charged by intermediaries for government review and approval will be overhauled or abolished. We will work toward lower operating fees levied on businesses in the finance and railway freight sectors. We will strengthen oversight over the collection of market-set service fees.

Fourth, we will continue to lower as appropriate the share paid by enterprises for contributions to social security.

Fifth, we will deepen reforms and improve policies to reduce government imposed transaction costs for businesses and lower their energy and logistics costs.

All government departments and agencies concerned should have in mind the overall interests of the country instead of their narrow departmental interests, reduce the financial burden on enterprises, and help them develop new advantages over international competition.

Take targeted and powerful measures to strengthen areas of weakness

We need to focus on salient problems that are holding back economic and social development and making it difficult to improve people's standards of living, and we should integrate efforts to undertake major projects set out in the 13th Five-Year Plan with efforts to strengthen areas of weakness. We should act faster to raise the capacity of public services, infrastructure, innovation-driven development, and resources and the environment to sustain development.

Poor areas and people living in poverty represent the area of greatest weakness we must face as we work to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. We need to do more in implementing targeted poverty reduction and elimination measures. This year we will further reduce the number of rural residents living in poverty by over 10 million, including 3.4 million to be relocated from inhospitable areas. Central government funding for poverty alleviation will be increased by over 30 percent.

We need to step up development in contiguous areas of extreme poverty, old revolutionary bases, border areas, and areas with concentrations of ethnic minorities. For this we should focus on the following work: improving infrastructure and public services; fostering poverty alleviation through distinctive local businesses, the domestic and overseas export of labor, and improving education and health care; providing assistance to people who become poor or sink back into poverty due to illness; implementing the program for improving life in poor villages; and building the self-development capacity of poor areas and people.

In poor counties, different rural development funds will be merged, and oversight over funds and projects will be strengthened. We will develop new mechanisms for coordinating poverty reduction efforts. We will support and guide non-governmental participation in combating poverty. The system for ensuring responsibility is taken for poverty elimination will be effectively enforced, the strictest possible evaluations and assessments of poverty alleviation will be carried out, and stern measures will be taken to address deception, falsification, and the manipulation of numbers in poverty elimination work. We must see that the results of our poverty elimination earn the approval of our people and stand the test of time.

2. Deepening reform in major sectors and key links

Full reform will be deepened in all areas. We will move faster to advance fundamental and critical reforms to boost the internal forces driving development.

We will continue to transform government functions.

To enable the market to play the decisive role in resource allocation and to give better play to the role of government, we must deepen reforms to streamline government administration, delegate more powers, and improve regulation and service. This is a profound reform of government itself, which we need to continue to pursue with the courage to make painful self-adjustments and overcome all odds.

We will fully implement the list-based management system, formulate lists of powers and responsibilities of the departments under the State Council, accelerate the extension of trials of granting market access on the basis of a negative list, and reduce the discretionary powers of the government while giving the market more freedom to take its course. We will abolish the requirement for permits for a number of production and service activities. We will deepen institutional reforms in the business sector, merge different forms of certification required of businesses into one certificate, and expand trials to separate operating permits and business licenses. We will improve the system for conducting both registration and post-registration oversight over businesses, apply the oversight model of random inspection and public release to cover all business activities, and strengthen coordinated administrative law enforcement. We will accelerate efforts to make the information systems of the State Council departments and those of local governments better connected and form a nationally unified government service platform.

To see that businesses and the public benefit more from our reforms to streamline administration, delegate powers, and improve regulation and services, we must cut red tape, level the playing field, provide greater convenience, and remove that last crucial hurdle.

We will continue to reform fiscal and tax systems.

We will implement and improve policies on replacing business tax with VAT across the board. We will simplify the structure of VAT rates, and undertake this year to turn the four tax brackets into three. We will create a simple, transparent, and fairer tax environment and further ease the tax burden of our firms. We will move faster to advance the reform of defining the respective financial powers and expenditure responsibilities of the central and local governments, formulate an overall plan for central and local government revenue sharing, improve the local tax system, and better regulate local government debt financing. We will step up efforts to make government budgets and final accounts more transparent to create pressure for idle budgetary funds to be put to good use. We must use funds more efficiently, and ensure every single sum is spent where it can be seen and produces results.

We will advance reforms in the financial sector.

We will prompt financial institutions to focus on their main business and make their services accessible to small and micro businesses, strengthen their ability to serve the real economy, and resolutely prevent them from being distracted from their intended purpose.

We will encourage large and medium commercial banks to establish inclusive finance departments. Large state-owned banks should take the lead in this effort. We will adopt differentiated assessment and evaluation measures and supportive policies, and effectively address the problem of medium, small, and micro enterprises being unable to access loans or having to pay high interest to secure loans.

We will make good use of policy-backed and development-oriented finance. We will move forward with the reform of rural credit cooperatives and strengthen the role they play in meeting the needs of agriculture, rural areas, and farmers.

We will deepen the reform of the multi-tiered capital market, improve the basic systems of the main board, actively develop the ChiNext stock market and the new third board, and see that regional equity markets develop in a well-regulated way. We will expand channels for using insurance funds to support the real economy. We will make major efforts to develop green finance. We will give impetus to the sound development of the financial leasing industry.

At present, overall, systemic risks are under control. But we must be fully alert to the buildup of risks, including risks related to non-performing assets, bond defaults, shadow banking, and Internet finance. We will take active and steady steps to advance the reform of the financial regulatory system, and work systematically to defuse major potential risks. We will ensure order in the financial sector and build a firewall against financial risks.

The fundamentals of the Chinese economy remain sound, the capital adequacy ratio and provision coverage of commercial banks remain high, and we have many financial tools and instruments that can be used. We have the confidence, the ability, and the means to forestall systemic risks.

We will deepen the reform of SOEs and state capital.

We should develop a corporate governance structure (represented by legal person) that is under effective check and a flexible and efficient market-based operating system, with a view to increasing core competitiveness and making resource allocation more effective. This year we will basically complete the introduction of corporate systems into SOEs. We will deepen reform to establish mixed ownership systems, and make substantive progress in industries including electric power, petroleum, natural gas, railways, civil aviation, telecommunications, and defense.

We will advance structural reform in the power, oil and gas sectors and open their competitive operations to the private sector. We will do more to make SOEs leaner and healthier, and perform better; and we will redouble efforts to relieve SOEs of their obligations to operate social programs and help them resolve other longstanding issues. We will make progress in work on piloting reforms in state capital investment and management companies.

We will improve and strengthen regulation of state assets, and ensure that state assets maintain and increase their value, as we are duty bound to see that the common wealth of the people is well protected and grows.

We will do more to energize the non-public sector.

We will thoroughly implement the policies and measures for supporting the development of the non-public sector. We will work actively to develop a new relationship between government and business. We will encourage non-public enterprises to participate in SOE reforms. We must ensure equal rights, equal opportunities, and fair rules, and further expand market access to the non-public sector. All industries and sectors for which entry is not explicitly prohibited by laws or regulations should be open to different types of market entities; all industries and sectors that are open to overseas investment should be open to Chinese private capital; and all unjustified activities that impede fair market competition should be stopped.

We will improve the property rights protection system.

Protecting property rights means protecting labor, protecting invention and innovation, and protecting and developing productive forces. We will work faster to improve the property rights protection system and protect in accordance with law the property rights of economic entities under all forms of ownership and the property rights of citizens. We will encourage people to start businesses, make innovations, and create wealth, and we will inspire and protect entrepreneurship, and ensure that entrepreneurs can run their businesses and make investments with peace of mind. Activities that infringe on the property rights of businesses and citizens must be investigated and dealt with severely; anything that has been done wrong must be corrected.

We will make a big push for progress in the reform of the social system.

We will deepen reforms in support of change in the income distribution system. We will take steady steps to advance reform of the old-age insurance system, and allocate a portion of state capital to enlarge social security funds. We will deepen the coordinated reform of medical services, health insurance, and the medicine industry. We will introduce overall reform in public hospitals nationwide, abolish all markups on pharmaceuticals, and make coordinated progress in reforming health care pricing, staffing and remuneration, medicine distribution, and models of health insurance payment. We will continue reforms in education, the cultural sector, and public institutions to unleash society's vast potential for growth.

We will deepen institutional reform to build a sound ecological environment.

We will improve the functional zoning system and the mechanisms for compensating for ecological conservation efforts; we will put in place resource and environment monitoring and early-warning mechanisms; we will launch trials to improve the state natural resource assets management system; and we will introduce an overall plan for establishing a national parks system. All these efforts should provide effective institutional safeguards for building a sound ecological environment.

3. Doing more to unleash the potential of domestic demand

We will push to see that the composition of supply becomes better matched with the composition of demand and that consumption upgrades and effective investment reinforce each other; we will promote coordinated development between regions and between rural and urban areas; and we will strengthen the role of domestic demand in sustaining growth.

We will promote a steady increase in consumer spending.

We need to adapt to changes in consumer demand, improve our policies and measures, and create a better consumer environment.

First, we need to speed up the development of service consumption. We will launch a new round of trials for comprehensive reform in the service sector, and support the non-governmental sector in providing educational, cultural, elderly care, healthcare, and other services. We will encourage development of new service models and cross-sectoral integration, combined medical and elderly care services, cultural and creative services, and other emerging forms of consumption. We will ensure paid vacations are enforced, improve tourist facilities and services, and make a big push to develop rural tourism, recreational tourism, and all-for-one tourism. We will increase information consumption including digital homes and online learning. We will see that communities and rural areas have better access to e-commerce and express delivery services, and encourage the integrated development of physical store sales and online shopping.

Second, we need to boost consumption of quality products. We will guide enterprises in increasing the variety of products, raising their quality, and building the brands of their products. More products sold domestically should be produced on the same production lines, meet the same standards, and be of the same quality as products for export in order to better satisfy the needs of upgrading consumption.

Third, we need to ensure order in the market. We will be strict about investigating and punishing the production and sale of counterfeit and substandard goods, false advertising, and price fraud. We will strengthen the protection of consumer rights; and we will make sure that spending is an enjoyable rather than a disappointing experience for consumers.

We will work proactively to expand effective investment.

We will guide more investment into fields that will help to strengthen weak areas, drive structural adjustment, encourage innovation, and improve people's lives. This year, we will invest 800 billion yuan in railway construction and 1.8 trillion yuan in highway and waterway projects. Construction on another 15 major water conservancy projects will begin; and work on major rail transport, civil and general aviation, and telecommunications infrastructure projects will be sped up. A total of 507.6 billion yuan of investment has been included in the central government budget this year. We will implement and improve policies and measures for encouraging private investment. We will continue to promote public-private partnerships, and improve related policies on preferential pricing, tax, and fee arrangements. Government must take the lead in acting in good faith and must never arbitrarily change agreements, and new officials must not disavow obligations undertaken by their predecessors.

We will improve planning for regional development.

We will coordinate the launching of three strategic initiatives and the development of the eastern, central, western, and northeastern regions. We will ensure related plans are well implemented and explore and adopt new measures. We will boost the development of national-level new areas, development zones, and industrial parks through innovation. We will support the economic transformation and development of areas hurt by resource depletion and severe ecological degradation. Airspace resources will be better allocated. We will speed up the development of maritime economy demonstration zones, we will move faster to develop China into a strong maritime country, and we will be resolute in safeguarding China's maritime rights and interests.

We will take solid steps to pursue a new type of urbanization.

We will deepen the reform of the household registration system. This year, at least 13 million new urban residents will be registered as permanent urban residents. We will speed up work to introduce the urban residence card system nationwide. We will support the development of small and medium cities and small towns with distinctive local features. We will help a number of counties and very large towns that meet the criteria to steadily develop into cities, and we will make city clusters better play their role in driving the development of their surrounding areas.

We will encourage local governments to integrate their urban plans into single master plans and raise the standard of municipal planning and design. We will take more steps to reform and develop the construction industry, and improve the quality of construction projects. We will promote coordinated urban development above and below the ground, strengthen geological surveying, and begin construction on at least another 2,000 kilometers of underground utility tunnels in cities. A three-year initiative will be launched to remove the risk of flooding in highly vulnerable urban areas, further progress will be made in the development of sponge cities, and effective steps will be taken to address traffic congestion and other urban maladies. All these efforts will make our cities more attractive and function better.

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