China is to do a bit better over last year: BT economist

CHINA is plodding along, Europe's illnesses won't be fatal and while the mining construction boom has passed, the industry itself is still powering along.

That is what guests gleaned from a speech by BT chief economist Dr Chris Caton whose topics pinballed from India's growing population, the need for greater productivity in Australia and his belief that our currency is just about to fall.

Unfortunately, Dr Caton admitted even he had little faith in that final prediction, explaining he had repeatedly been wrong in trying to guess the future of the dollar.

The economist fronted a lecture put on by Griffith University Business School and Australian Institute of Company Directors in Brisbane on Wednesday.

In his rapid-fire, 20-minute speech, he compared hip surgery to divorce, delivered a veiled poke to New Zealand and zipped through most of the economic problems facing both Australia and the world.

"China is to do a bit better over last year," he said.

"We're used to contemplating the end of the mining (capital expenditure) boom, but that's not the mining boom."

He said even as the construction work waned, it would result in the completion of major projects delivering more coal to export markets.

But for those in the mining construction game, he suggested it might be time to move over to production, or actual mining.

He said construction jobs nationwide fell by 30% in the 12 months to November last year, with only public service roles copping a harder hit.

Moving beyond our continent, he described the challenges facing Europe - particularly Spain and Greece - as "depressant but not destructive", with Greece's economy barely worth a mention because it was roughly worth the same as the American city of Philadelphia.

"And can you imagine anything happening in Philadelphia that would affect us here?" he said.

"The Europe debt problem will not go away quickly but it is not likely to end in catastrophe."

But Dr Caton saved his "most important" point until last - a slide showing a disclaimer that his speech was not intended to act as financial advice.

Topics:  china economy

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