Wen targets balanced growth

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-06 07:03

Premier Wen Jiabao delivers a government work report to the lawmakers in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 5, 2007. [Xinhua]

Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday charted a clear path of how China will drive ahead "sound and fast" this year: downshift the economy to 8 percent following four straight years of double-digit growth, while cutting energy use and cleaning up the environment.

Wen also pledged hefty spending increases on education, healthcare, social security and other areas of concern for ordinary Chinese, to ensure that "all the people share in the fruits of reform and development".

The goals were detailed in a government work report submitted to the National People's Congress for deliberation and approval at the opening of the top legislature's annual session yesterday in Beijing.

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"On the basis of structural adjustment reduced consumption of energy and environmental protection, the gross domestic product (GDP) is targeted to grow by about 8 percent," he told 2,890 national legislators while listing the major targets for 2007.

Given that GDP has grown at 10 percent or slightly higher for four years in a row, the slower growth is aimed at concentrating efforts on saving energy, reducing pollutants discharge and stopping local authorities seeking only faster growth and competing for the fastest growth, he said.

The premier explained that slow industrial restructuring and over-heated growth of the heavy industry, especially the high energy-consuming and polluting sectors, were largely to blame for last year's failure to meet energy saving and pollution control targets.

The government set the goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent and major pollutants discharge by 10 percent in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) but missed both targets last year.

"The targets can't be revised and we must work resolutely to achieve them," Wen said.

He said the State Council, or the Cabinet, will make annual reports on the progress in achieving the goals to the legislature starting this year.

The government will not approve new projects that fail to pass energy saving and environmental impact assessment tests.

In addition to closing dirty steel mills and small coal-fired power plants, the government will try to clean up polluted rivers and develop more energy-efficient technology, he said.

Conceding a raft of "serious problems" affecting the people's interests have not been properly addressed and life remains difficult for many low-income earners, the premier vowed the government would work "energetically" to resolve the issues and safeguard social fairness and justice.

"Social harmony and stability as well as a better life are the aspirations of all the people and an important mission of the government," he said.
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This year's report is more specific than past ones on the challenges we face, as well as problems in government performance.

For one, the government will ensure a year-on-year increase in spending to directly improving the living and working conditions in rural areas and in education and public health programs.

"We will set up a nationwide basic minimum cost of living allowance system this year for rural residents, which has great and far-reaching significance for promoting social fairness and building a harmonious society," he said.

A scheme to provide basic medical care for rural dwellers, which has been running on a pilot basis over the past few years, will be expanded to cover at least 80 percent of the counties.

A slew of measures to increase the incomes of both urban and rural residents would also be taken this year, especially for those in the lower-income bracket, he said.

The country will make education a strategic priority, as education is the "bedrock" of the nation's development.

The drive to abolish school fees for rural children will be expanded nationwide this year; and free education provided for students majoring in education in teachers' colleges, he said.

The government will also work to rein in soaring housing prices.

(China Daily 03/06/2007 page1)

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