China to boost spending on welfare, medicare

By (Xinhua)
Updated: 2009-03-05 09:27

The Chinese government pledged on Thursday to increase spending on social programs including pension and medical reform in 2009 despite pressure from the international financial crisis.

"The more difficulties we face, the greater attention we should pay to ensuring people's well-being and promoting social harmony and stability."according to a government work report to be delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao to the annual session of the parliament that will open in Beijing Thursday.

The central government plans to spend 293 billion yuan ($42.84 billion) on the social safety net this year, up 17.6 percent or 43.9 billion yuan over the estimated figure for last year, reads the report distributed to the media before the opening of the 11th National People's Congress.

"Local governments will also increase funding in this area," the report says.

The fund will help "expand coverage of social security programs" and "increase social security benefits" of the Chinese, according to the report.

The government will allocate an additional 850 billion yuan in the three years beginning on 2009, including 331.8 billion yuan from the central government, to ensure smooth progress in the reform of its medical and health care system, the report says.

"We will continue to ensure that maintaining and improving people's lives is always the starting and end point of our economic work," it reads.

Economists said the lack of health insurance and social security is holding back China's economic development and the government's efforts to spur domestic demand, as people tend to clutch their purses tightly for unexpected disease, a laid-off, or old-age.