Over the past five years, we have worked with dedication to implement the decisions and plans made by the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core. The following are the highlights of that work:
First, with a commitment to the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, we have focused on developing new and better approaches to macro regulation, kept major indicators within an appropriate range, and achieved stable, positive economic performance.
The past few years have witnessed anemic world economic recovery, volatility in global financial markets, and a sharp rise in protectionism. In China, structural issues and underlying problems have become more acute, downward pressure on the economy has continued to mount, and we have met with no small number of dilemmas. In confronting this new environment, we have maintained strategic focus and refrained from resorting to a deluge of strong stimulus policies. Instead, we have adapted to, addressed, and steered the new normal in economic development, and taken coordinated steps to ensure steady growth, advance reform, make structural adjustments, improve living standards, and guard against risk. We have made fresh innovations in and refined macro regulation, developed the idea of and ways to achieve ranged-based regulation, and enhanced targeted, well-timed, and precision regulation.
We have been clear that as long as the major economic indicators are within an acceptable range, with employment growing, incomes increasing, and the environment improving, then our energies should be focused on advancing reform, making structural adjustments, and adding growth drivers. We have adopted measures that are good for the near term and even better for the long term, made strong moves to advance supply-side structural reform, appropriately expanded aggregate demand, and worked for a dynamic equilibrium of supply and demand at a higher level. With grit and determination, we have overcome downward pressure on the economy, avoided a "hard landing," maintained a medium-high growth rate, and promoted structural upgrading. The economic fundamentals that will sustain long-term growth have been cemented and enhanced.
We have continued to follow a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy. Despite a fairly big imbalance between government revenue and expenditure, China has led the way in slashing taxes and fees with the aim of using accommodative measures to strengthen the basis for sustained growth. Step by step, we have extended the replacement of business tax with value added tax (VAT) to all sectors across the country, calling time on the 66-year history of business tax. The result so far has been a tax cut of more than 2 trillion yuan. We have also adopted measures like preferential tax policies for small low-profit businesses and an overhaul of different types of fees. All in all, our market entities have seen savings of more than 3 trillion yuan. We have strengthened management over local government debt, and issued local government bonds to replace outstanding debt, cutting interest liability by 1.2 trillion yuan. We have adjusted the structure of government expenditure, put idle funds to work, and ensured the spending for undertaking major projects and meeting basic public needs. The deficit-to-GDP ratio has been kept within 3 percent.
Monetary policy has remained prudent and neutral. The M2 money supply growth rate has been trending downward, while credit and aggregate financing have seen moderate growth. Differentiated policies, such as targeted reserve requirement ratio cuts and targeted re-lending, have been adopted to strengthen support for key fields and weak links. The growth of loans to small and micro businesses has outstripped the average growth in lending. We have reformed and improved the market-based exchange rate mechanism and kept the RMB exchange rate basically stable; and foreign exchange reserves are now rising not falling. We have responded appropriately to abnormal market fluctuations such as the cash crunch, brought better order to the financial markets, prevented and diffused risks in key sectors, forestalled systemic risks, and thus safeguarded China's economic and financial security.
Second, with a commitment to treating supply-side structural reform as our main task, we have focused on fostering new growth drivers to speed up economic structural upgrading. We have persevered in relying on reform to overcome economic difficulties and address structural imbalances, made a big push to foster emerging industries, overhauled and strengthened traditional industries, and improved the quality and performance of the supply system.
Solid work has moved us forward in the five priority tasks of cutting overcapacity, reducing excess inventory, deleveraging, lowering costs, and strengthening areas of weakness. Over the past five years, building on work to cut backward production capacity in the cement, plate glass, and other industries, we have intensified efforts to cut overcapacity, prioritizing industries such as steel and coal; and a 100-billion-yuan fund for rewards and subsidies has been put in place by the central government to support efforts to assist affected employees. We have cut steel production capacity by more than 170 million metric tons and coal production capacity by 800 million metric tons, and over 1.1 million affected employees have been assisted.
Thanks to city-specific policies and category-specific guidance, clear progress has been made in reducing commercial residential housing inventory in third- and fourth-tier cities, and the growth of housing prices in the most popular cities has been brought under control. We have taken active and prudent steps to deleverage, control the scale of debts, and expand equity finance. The debt-to-asset ratio of industrial enterprises has been consistently declining. Macro leverage ratio is increasing by much smaller margins and is generally stable. We have used a combination of measures to bring down costs: 30 percent of government-managed funds and fees have been cut; over 60 percent of the fees and charges levied on businesses by the central government have been abolished; the ratio of enterprise contributions to old-age pension, medical insurance, unemployment insurance, and maternity insurance, workers' compensation, and housing provident fund schemes has been reduced for the time being, and work has been done to lower energy, logistics, and telecommunications costs. We have stepped up efforts to strengthen areas of weakness, with a focus on key issues.
We have sped up the replacement of old growth drivers.
We have done more in carrying out the Internet Plus Initiative, exercised accommodative and prudential regulation, and promoted the extensive application of big data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things; emerging industries have achieved vigorous growth, and traditional industries have undergone a thorough remodeling. Implementation of the Made in China 2025 Initiative has brought progress in major projects like the building of robust industrial foundations, smart manufacturing, and green manufacturing, and has accelerated the development of advanced manufacturing. We unveiled reform and development measures to foster modern services; and this has led to a marked rise in new forms of business in the services sector and new service models as well as the integration and upgrading of multiple sectors. Deepened supply-side structural reform in agriculture has brought the emergence of a large number of new types of agribusiness. The share of appropriately scaled-up farming has increased from 30 to over 40 percent.
We have taken measures to increase the incomes of those in low- and middle-income brackets, and helped to see an upgrading of traditional forms of consumption, and a boom in new forms of consumption. Online retail sales have been growing at an average annual rate of over 30 percent, and total retail sales of consumer goods have enjoyed an average annual increase of 11.3 percent. We have improved the composition of investment, encouraged private investment, used government investment to play a catalytic role, and guided more funding toward areas that strengthen the economic foundation, enhance sustainability, and improve people's lives.
China's in-operation high-speed railways have grown from over 9,000 to 25,000 kilometers, accounting for two thirds of the world's total. Our expressways have grown from 96,000 to 136,000 kilometers. We have built or upgraded 1.27 million kilometers of rural roads, built 46 new civilian airports, and begun work on 122 major water conservancy projects. We have completed the latest round of rural power grid upgrading, and put in place the largest mobile broadband network in the world. Over the past five years, new growth drivers have rapidly grown in strength. Economic growth, in the past mainly driven by investment and exports, is now being fueled by consumption, investment, and exports. In the past dependent mainly on secondary industry, growth is now powered by a combination of the primary, secondary, and tertiary industries. This is a major structural transformation that for years our sights have been set on, but we were always unable to achieve.
Advancing supply-side structural reform demands removing barriers to market based allocation of the factors of production and reducing government-imposed transaction costs. To address the longstanding issues of excessive emphasis on approval procedures, insufficient attention to regulatory processes, and a failure to provide strong services, we have been consistently deepening reforms to streamline administration, delegate powers, improve regulation, and strengthen services. We have sped up efforts to transform government functions, reduced micromanagement and direct intervention, and done more to improve macro regulation, market regulation, and public services.
Over the past five years, the number of items subject to approval by State Council offices and departments has been slashed by 44 percent, the practice of non-administrative approval has been completely put to a stop, the number of business investment items subject to central government approval has been cut by 90 percent, intermediary services needed for obtaining government approval have been cut by 74 percent, and the requirements for professional qualification approval and accreditation have been significantly reduced. The number of items for which central government sets the prices has been cut back by 80 percent, and local government-priced items have been cut down by over 50 percent. Comprehensive reforms have swept the business system, including business and capital registration, reducing the time it takes to start a business by over a third.
We have developed new and better ways of conducting compliance oversight, and introduced a new model of oversight combining randomly selected inspectors who inspect randomly selected entities and the prompt release of results. These efforts have made regulation more effective and impartial. We have rolled out the Internet Plus Government Services model and adopted measures such as the one-stop service model. Thanks to the above reforms, the business environment has consistently improved, the market is more energized, and people can access government services more easily.