Officials in Sichuan, the region devastated a year ago by a massive earthquake, admitted yesterday that the rebuilding effort is not progressing as quickly in urban areas as it is in rural regions.
"Rebuilding of rural houses was expected to be finished by the end of September, while those in cities would be completed by next May," said Yu Wei, a provincial government spokesman, who spoke at a press conference days before the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that left 68,712 dead, including 5,335 students. "The complicated issues in regards to property rights are the main difficulty influencing the progress of reconstruction in cities," he said.
More than 241,000 houses in rural areas within the quake zone and 105,000 urban and township apartments are under construction, Yu noted.
One million units of housing have been finished in rural areas and 33,000 in cities.
Reconstruction of 46.2 percent of the damaged clinics and hospitals has started, the official said, adding that the rebuilding of most of the basic public service facilities including clinics and hospitals will be completed in two years.
Also yesterday, the Sichuan government said the 15.75 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) in donations raised for disaster relief and rebuilding after the massive Sichuan earthquake on May 12 were invaluable.
Liu Jie, a Sichuan official running rebuilding projects, said more than half of the 2,328 reconstruction projects sponsored by other Chinese provinces have started, while nearly 10 percent are already complete.
But Liu, who is the head of the provincial development and reform commission, declined to elaborate on whether the financial crisis has interrupted the rebuilding process.
The official also downplayed criticism of the 300 million yuan raised to rebuild the collapsed Beichuan Middle School, saying that might be an "exaggeration".
When the school fell down, 1,300 of the 2,800 students lost their lives.
"The budget all comes from donations, not government expenditure, and the huge donation reflects the passion from many overseas Chinese willing to help rebuild the school," Liu said.
Dou Yupei, vice-minister of the ministry of civil affairs, said on Wednesday all donations registered through the central government were already in place. Only a few corporations have delayed their payments, he said.
Huang Jinsheng, head of the provincial finance department, said the province itself had received 9.13 billion yuan to support rebuilding, while other funds had been forwarded to prefectures and counties. The official vowed to strictly monitor and publicize the use of donations.