HIGHLIGHTS: Comments from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

BEIJING Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:58am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Following are comments from China's Premier Li Keqiang at his news conference on the final day of China's yearly meeting of parliament on Thursday:

REFORM

"We will make breakthroughs in reform on important issues this year. This year we will continue to push forward the simplifying of administration and the decentralizing of government power, allowing market forces to take effect."

"We will make fiscal and financial reforms the priority this year, including unveiling new measures to cut taxes for small firms."

PROPERTY

"We need to apply differentiated property measures in different cities based on different types of demand and local conditions."

"We will push forward the construction of affordable housing and make sure these are distributed fairly."

"For reasonable buyer-and-occupier demand, we will have relevant supporting policies, including increasing the supply of residential property."

"We will curb speculative housing demand and set up a long-term mechanism to ensure stable and healthy development of the property market."

ECONOMY

"China's economy still faces severe challenges this year and probably will face a more complicated situation."

"The biggest challenge last year was still increased downward pressure on the economy."

"For me, the space for wielding fiscal and monetary policy has limits, and macro(economic) regulation certainly faces many hard choices."

"On the risks of shadow banking, we are enhancing oversight and have already set a timetable to push forward the implementation of Basel III rules."

GDP

"We believe we have the ability, and all the means, to ensure that economic growth will stay within a reasonable range this year."

"We will not only need to stabilize growth and ensure a stable job market, but also to control inflation and risks. We will also need to improve the quality of the economy and improve efficiency while resolving pollution problems. To achieve these multiple targets, we need to find a reasonable equilibrium."

"I do not deny that we will face more complicated factors this year. The reason why we have set GDP growth at around 7.5 percent is that we are considering the need to keep stability in the labor market, to benefit people's livelihoods, and to increase the income of urban and rural residents."

"We pay more attention to people's livelihoods behind the figures, and to employment behind the growth."

"The acceptable lowest limit of GDP growth needs to ensure enough employment and that people's incomes are increasing."

"We are not pursuing GDP growth alone."

DEBT

"We are reluctant to see defaults of financial products, but some cases are hard to avoid. We must enhance oversight and solve problems in a timely way to ensure no systemic and regional risks."

"We have been paying great attention to risks from financial sectors and debt."

"The result of a government audit showed that debt risks are generally under control, and the debt/GDP ratio of government debt is below the international warning line."

"But we cannot overlook risk, and we are enhancing our efforts on regulatory measures."

HONG KONG

"The central government's policy toward Hong Kong and Macau is consistent and clear cut. The central government will continue to support Hong Kong in maintaining and elevating its status as an international financial, trading and shipping centre."

CORRUPTION

"We will show zero tolerance for corrupt behavior and corrupt officials. China is a country ruled by law. No matter who it is, or how senior their position, everyone is equal before the law. If they violate party discipline or national law, they will be seriously dealt with and punished according to the law."

"We must apply the rule of law in thinking and action to fight corruption and put the exercise of power and the use of public money under institutional check. This year we will continue to streamline administration and delegate government powers. We are going to release to the public the list of powers as quickly as possible, and set down clear boundaries for the exercise of power to ensure that power will not be abused."

MISSING MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT MH370

"This is an international and large-scale search operation involving many countries. The Chinese government has asked the relevant party to enhance coordination, investigate the cause, locate the missing plane as quickly as possible and properly handle all related matters."

(Reuters Beijing Bureau; Editing by Paul Tait)

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