China / Society

Sichuan province outlines 5-year plan

By LI YANG in Chengdu ( Updated: 2015-12-16 15:27

The Sichuan provincial government has outlined its goals for the next five years, pledging to boost its economic growth, protect the environment and eliminate poverty by 2020.

In a series of news conferences, the government detailed its 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20), which concentrates on five aspects of development: innovation, coordination, environmental protection, opening-up and poverty alleviation.

Sichuan is the first of China's 30 some provincial regions to publicize its goals. The strategic plan covers a province that is roughly the size of Spain and has about 81 million residents, and an average personal GDP of about $5,600 last year, similar to that of Thailand.

The December news conferences, which concluded Monday, also detailed the province's performance over the past five years, when it implemented the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-15).

Bureau chiefs from the provincial authorities in charge of the economy, commerce, industry, environmental protection, social welfare, technology, poverty alleviation and more attended the news conferences organized by the government's information office.

The Chinese central government has identified the year 2020 an important benchmark in its governance, pledging to eliminate poverty, cover all people with a social security net, double the average personal income from the level set in 2010, and create a more prosperous nation.

The goals are challenging as China still has more than 70 million people living below the poverty level of $1.25 a day and economic growth has dipped to 7 percent annually, far below the double-digit growth reported during the 11th Five Year Plan period. Environmental pollution remains a deep concern.

The next five years will be a crucial period for local governments seeking to balance economic growth, social stability and environmental challenges.

In Sichuan, the economy grew 8.5 percent last year, but growth was still slower than in previous years. The province said it had attracted nearly $50 billion in foreign direct investment from 2011 to 2015, and by the end of this year, 296 of the world's top 500 businesses had set up local branches in Sichuan.

Innovation was identified as a source of competitiveness for Sichuan's industry, which originates from a military legacy, but has been focusing on transforming its resources to civilian use. According to the provincial science and technology bureau, new technology contributed more than 50 percent of Sichuan's economic growth last year.

The government said it will make it easier to set up new businesses, especially innovative ventures. By the end of November, Sichuan had tallied more than 10,000 new technology enterprises, a year-on-year increase of 45 percent. The government said it seeks to have more than 20,000 such enterprises added every year during the next five years, and make them the main innovators and players in the market. A 2 billion yuan ($333 million) investment fund was established to nurture new ventures and innovations.

The five-year plan seeks to bridge the gap between cities and villages. As the largest province in Southwest China, its economy overwhelmingly relies on infrastructure investment, and the robust growth of Chengdu, the provincial capital, which contributes about 40 percent of Sichuan GDP.

Chengdu's economy hit 1 trillion yuan last year, making it the ninth largest city economy in China. The provincial government said Chengdu's economy should exceed 1.5 trillion yuan in 2020.

Sichuan population of poor residents fell to 3.8 million in 2015 from 13.57 million in 2010, but the western part of the province — Ganzi, Aba and Daliangshan, three autonomous prefectures of Tibetan, Qiang and Yi peoples — remains one of the poorest regions in China. Moreover, the mountainous regions to the north, east and south of the Sichuan Basin are all extremely poor areas.

The government said it will focus on extending social security nets to these areas, building roads and houses, developing tourism, and improving education and medical care.

The government said it will provide three years of free vocational education for poor students after they finish the free nine-year compulsory education. Vocational schools are expected to better arm students to find jobs in cities or develop businesses in their hometowns.

Sichuan's environmental conservation is of national significance as it is located in the eastern borders of the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau and in the upper reaches of many important rivers, including the Yangtze.

Sichuan has rich resources in water, coal and nonferrous metals. But its delicate ecology means it must carefully choose the right industries. The government wants Sichuan to develop advanced manufacturing, modern agriculture and service sectors.

The government said it will make thorough use of Sichuan's several national-level, high-tech zones and industrial parks, railways connecting Chengdu with Europe and expressways connecting Sichuan with Southeast Asia. It intends to actively participate in the construction of the Silk Road Economy Belt and the Yangtze River Economic Belt, two national development strategies.

The government also plans to make Sichuan an ecological protective screen in the Yangtze's upper reaches, and reduce its energy consumption through applying new technology and transforming its industrial sector.

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