China more than doubles Sept approval for fixed-asset investment projects

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s state planner in September more than doubled its approval for fixed-asset investment projects, as Beijing looks to step up support for an economy expanding at the slowest pace in nearly three decades.

FILE PHOTO: People visit on a bridge in front of the financial district of Pudong in Shanghai, China July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

The National Development and Reform Commission approved 177.8 billion yuan ($25.15 billion) of investment in 14 fixed-asset projects in September, a commission spokesman Yuan Da told reporters in a briefing on Monday, adding that the investments were mainly in the transportation sector.

That compared with its August approval for 68.9 billion yuan worth of projects.

On Friday, China reported third quarter gross domestic product growth of 6.0%, marking a further loss of momentum for the economy from the second quarter and hitting the lower end of the government target of between 6.0% to 6.5% for the full year.

The September value was also the highest since at least April, official data showed.

In the third quarter, the NDRC approved 35 projects totaling 317.2 billion yuan.

Yuan Da from the NDRC said it is acceptable for China’s growth to be bit slower.

“As China’s economy shifts from a high-speed growth stage to a high-quality stage, as long as the employment expands, income increases and environment quality improves and economic efficiency increases, it is acceptable for the economic growth to be a tad lower or higher,” Yuan said.

So far, the accelerated approvals this year have failed to provide a substantial boost to the actual investment growth. Fixed asset investment only grew 5.4% from January-September, slowing from the 5.5% in the first eight months.

Many local governments are facing increasing fiscal strains as the tax cuts and the broader economic slowdown reduce their revenues, hampering their ability to carry through on big infrastructure projects which Beijing is counting on to revive growth.

Reporting by Xu Jing and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Writing by Stella Qiu; Editing by Clarence Fernandez & Shri Navaratnam