September 5, 2012 / 2:57 AM / in 6 years

China details rail, health, infrastructure spending - reports

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has rolled out a series of plans for infrastructure spending this week, notably from the Ministry of Railroads, aiming to boost confidence that the government is committed to keeping economic growth from sagging further.

The heavily indebted Ministry of Railroads has boosted its target for railway construction this year to 496 billion yuan ($78.14 billion), up from the previous target of 470 billion yuan), the China Daily said on Wednesday, citing an industry executive. Last year, it spent 461 billion yuan.

The Ministry of Health has earmarked 400 billion yuan by 2020 on systems, equipment and training upgrades to meet its goals to tackle chronic diseases, the paper added.

The reports follow a spate of announcements by city governments in inland China of their spending plans, many of which appear to be cobbled together from previous long-term commitments.

Analysts said the reports help give an impression of government action as economic data increasingly indicate that China is well into a seventh quarter of slowing growth.

China is still digesting the legacy of a massive stimulus program launched in late 2008 that staved off the effects of the global financial crisis, but amplified inflationary pressures and left local governments saddled with mountains of debt.

The Railway Ministry, which channeled much of that stimulus into a network of high-speed passenger trains, station upgrades and rail expansion, said this weekend it suffered an after-tax loss of $1.4 billion, due to higher-than-anticipated operating costs and its debt burden.

It is also struggling with the aftermath of a corruption scandal and a deadly crash.

It has committed to invest at least 67 billion yuan a month in railway investment for the remainder of the year, the China Daily said, while acknowledging that total investment in fixed rail assets had actually dropped 30 percent in the first seven months of the year.

Meanwhile, the government of Xinjiang, a resource-rich region on China’s Central Asian border, committed to 606 billion yuan in spending, the Economic Observer said this week, without giving a timeframe for the projects.

Xinjiang is already the recipient of heavy spending commitments due to plans for hydropower and rail development to enable the exploitation of massive coal deposits in the far-flung arid region. ($1 = 6.3473 Chinese yuan)

Reporting By Lucy Hornby; Editing by Kim Coghill

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