Peking's economic planners invest in China's people

China's sixth five-year plan, unveiled by Premier Zhao Ziyang on Nov. 30, sets ambitious but achievable goals, Western observers here say.

The plan concentrates government investment up to 1985 in two key areas - energy and transport. Shortages in both areas severely constrict efforts to modernize China's unwieldy and backward economy.

The plan also accelerates the pace of urban housing and increases expenditures on education, science, and culture. In this sense it is a people-oriented plan, contrasting with previous plans, which emphasized heavy industry at the expense of housing and consumer needs.

Mr. Zhao, who spoke before more than 3,000 members of the National Peoples Congress (China's legislature) assembled in the cavernous Great Hall of the People here, promised China's billion people a rise in income averaging 6 percent per year.

Under the leadership of Zhao's mentor, Politburo member Deng Xiaoping, China has gone through a difficult three-year period of economic readjustment designed to shift the emphasis from costly, time-consuming capital projects to profit-oriented light industry serving agriculture and consumer needs.

The sixth five-year plan should have been published in l980. So painful has been the adjustment, however, and so difficult the task of forecasting how the economy will perform, that it is only now, nearly two full years since the plan period began, that the government feels able to set specific targets for the whole five-year plan period.

In his speech Nov. 30, Zhao said he looked forward to winning a ''decisive victory in the endeavor to obtain a fundamental turn for the better.'' At the same time he cautioned that there were still many obstacles.

For instance, the population increase must be held to 13.0 per thousand per year so that in 1985 total population will be around 1.060 billion. The national census taken July 1 this year showed China already had 1.008 billion people and that in 1981 the growth rate was 14.55 per thousand.

The plan targets gross industrial and agricultural output of 871 billion yuan (about $435 billion US) in 1985, of which agriculture will account for 266 billion yuan and industry, 605 billion. To achieve this, grain output will have to reach 360 million tons, or 12.3 percent more than in 1980. Whereas during the 28 years from 1953 to 1980 agricultural output grew on the average by 3.4 percent per year, during the sixth five-year plan it will have to average 4 to 5 percent a year.

This year China has had a bumper harvest, and agricultural output has grown by more than 5 percent. Can this pace continue, in a land where natural disasters are an almost yearly occurrence? The three years remaining of the five-year plan should show whether the targeted output is well-based, and thus whether the more ambitious goal of doubling grain output by the end of the century can be achieved.

As for industry, total investment in fixed assets during the five-year-plan period will be 360 billion yuan ($180 million), Zhao said.

The economic results of industrial growth in the previous 28 years were very poor, Mr. Zhao said, whereas the sixth five-year plan is anchored on better economic performance. The targets set were safe and appropriate and allowed room for overfulfillment. This year, Mr. Zhao said, agricultural and industrial output is expected to rise by 5.7 percent, well above the 4 percent targeted in the plan.

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