China's provinces plan $3.23 trillion investment to boost economy - paper

Cranes operating at a residential construction site in the Qinghe district of Beijing, China, on Friday, Sept 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Cranes operating at a residential construction site in the Qinghe district of Beijing, China, on Friday, Sept 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Fourteen Chinese provinces plan to invest a combined 15 trillion yuan (S$3.23 trillion) in infrastructure and other projects starting this year as part of their effort to help set a bottom on a slowdown in the economy, an official newspaper said on Wednesday.

The southwestern province of Sichuan, the most populous of the 14, was the latest when it announced its investment plan on Monday, aiming to spend 2.99 trillion yuan to boost industrial and other expansion, the Shanghai Securities News said.

The southern province of Fujian would invest 3 trillion yuan on infrastructure projects, including environmental protection, makng it the biggest spender among the 14, the newspaper said.

Others major spenders included the provinces of Hubei, which plans to invest 2.9 trillion yuan, Henan 1.5 trillion yuan and Hunan 1 trillion yuan.

While spending will begin this year, not all funds dedicated to the projects be spent in the first year. Sichuan, for example, plans to invest only 418.8 billion yuan of the total 2.99 trillion package in 2015.

China's economy grew at its slowest pace in 24 years in 2014 as property prices cooled and companies and local governments struggled under heavy debt burdens, keeping pressure on Beijing to take steps to avoid a sharper downturn.

Beijing has admitted the economy will continue to feel pressure this year. It has pledged no dramatic central governmental investment support, but has offered "targeted easing" aimed at specific sectors and regions.

The government is attempting to stimulate growth without setting off another round of poorly planned investment as it did in 2009, which saddled China with a massive debt overhang the system is still trying to digest.