- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BEIJING

Trying to dispel doubts about the true size and effectiveness of a giant economic stimulus package, Beijing rolled out an eye-popping figure to show its determination to spend its way out of trouble: a $1.4 trillion shopping list of possible investments.

The figure, reported by state television Sunday, represents an avalanche of proposals by local leaders for new roads, airports, railways and other facilities. There was no word on how many might go ahead. But the announcement reflected the government’s focus on assuring companies and consumers about the scale of its response as it tries to shield China from a global slowdown by revving up domestic spending.

“People worry about China’s ability to support growth. By showing this number, the government certainly has demonstrated its ability to put together investment projects to hold up growth,” said Citigroup economist Yiping Huang.

The proposed list of projects from provincial authorities gives investors an idea of how part of the government’s $586 billion stimulus package announced Nov. 9 might be spent.

But the newspaper 21st Century Business Herald said many of the projects on the list were already under construction, had been under discussion for some time, or were planned but not begun because money was lacking.

In the biggest public project so far under the stimulus package, the government will spend $527 million on a new terminal for an airport in Chongqing, a giant industrial city in the southwest, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

The Health Ministry announced Sunday that rural clinics and hospitals will receive $700 million this year to improve infrastructure. Xinhua, in reporting the announcement, noted that the money is part of plans announced two years ago to overhaul the rural health network.

Investors seemed unimpressed. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 3.7 percent Monday to 1,897.06.

China’s economic growth eased to 9 percent in the latest quarter, down from 11.9 percent last year. That was still the highest among major economies, but Chinese leaders were alarmed at the unexpected sharp fall in growth. They worry about layoffs - especially in export industries - and possible unrest.

The state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

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