China quake province's economy up 9.5 pct in 2008

BEIJING, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The economy in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan grew by 9.5 percent in 2008, despite a major dip in the second quarter after last May’s devastating earthquake, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

That pace was probably faster than the country’s overall gross domestic product growth in 2008, given economists’ expectations that annual growth in the fourth quarter slowed to 7 percent, from 9.9 percent in the first nine months. [ID:nPEK111034]

Sichuan’s annual economic growth dropped to 4.6 percent in the second quarter on account of the quake, from 14.5 percent in the first quarter, Xinhua cited provincial governor Jiang Jufeng as telling the provincial legislature.

It then rebounded to 10.1 percent in the third quarter and 9.5 percent in the fourth, Xinhua said.

Xinhua did not give a breakdown, but the central government has been pouring cash into Sichuan for reconstruction efforts, which are also part of its 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus package announced in November.

The province’s tourism sector was badly hit by the earthquake, with revenues down 10.3 percent from 2007.

Sichuan’s stronger-than-average pace lends further evidence that the country’s central and western regions, once economic backwaters, are starting to catch up with the prosperous eastern seaboard, in line with the government’s aim of bringing greater balance to the economy. (Reporting by Jason Subler; Editing by Ken Wills)