China abandons GDP target for first time in decades amid pandemic

China abandons GDP target for first time in decades amid pandemic

China has abandoned setting a target for GDP growth for the first time in decades, citing "great uncertainty" caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have not set a specific target for economic growth this year. This is because our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict in its development due to the great uncertainty regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment," Chinese premier Li Keqiang said at the opening of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing on Friday.

This marks the first time since 1990, when China began publishing GDP goals, that the leadership has not named a target. Li said his government would instead "give priority to stabilising employment and ensuring living standards," The Guardian reported.

The PM said China’s economic growth, which shrank 6.8% in the first quarter, the first contraction since at least 1992, was expected to drop more in the current quarter. He cited disruptions to supply trains, international trade and volatility in commodity markets as well as declines in domestic consumption, investment and exports.

Instead of GDP growth, Li announced other targets including a 3.5% increase in inflation, more than 9m new urban jobs and a registered urban unemployment rate of around 5.5%. Beijing will also aim for personal income growth in line with economic growth, and the elimination of poverty among all rural residents.

Li reported the deficit-to-GDP ratio this year was projected to exceed 3.6%, and the deficit to increase by 1 trillion yuan more than last year. "Governments at all levels must truly tighten their belt," he said.

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