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Beijing lifts healthcare spending
( 2003-07-17 09:37) (China Daily)

The Beijing municipal government has invested a total of 1.1 billion yuan (US$137 million) into SARS prevention and control work by June, director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Finance Wu Shixiong revealed yesterday.

"We have increased public health spending to ensure the smooth operation of the fight against SARS in the capital in the past months," Wu said in a report yesterday to the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, the city's top legislature.

Out of the total spending on SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), purchasing medical treatment equipment and preventive disinfection equipment costs 280 million yuan (US$34 million) and 220 million yuan (US$27 million) respectively.

The remaining funds were invested on purchasing other materials to prevent and cure SARS, subsidize medical workers and purchase ambulances, according to the official.

"We have accelerated the procedure of paying the SARS-related investment, for only one day," he said.

The local government of the capital invested 1.2 billion yuan (US$147 million) in the first six months in public health, 75.8 per cent higher than the same period last year, according to sources.

At yesterday's conference, Beijing Municipal Development and Planning Commission Director Ding Xiangyang announced that Beijing's gross domestic product (GDP) increased 9.6 per cent year-on-year to 151.61 billion yuan (US$18.26 billion) in the first six months.

This means the city still maintains a strong economic growth momentum, despite the outbreak of SARS, Ding said.

In the first half of the year, Beijing introduced US$1.3 billion of contractual foreign investment, up 19.6 per cent from a year earlier, and actually used US$1.02 billion of foreign direct investment, up 11.8 per cent.

The export volume of local enterprises in the capital reached US$3.3 billion, up 33.9 per cent to last year. The import figure was 5.1 billion yuan (US$610 million) with a year-to-year increase of 43.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, Beijing achieved a financial income of 30.2 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion) in the first half year, 19.5 per cent higher than last year. Thus, over half of the yearly budget has been spent.

The increasing rate of financial income has slowed down due to the negative impact brought on by SARS and the policy to reduce taxes, according to Ding.

Beijing's registered unemployment rate was 1.44 per cent, 0.1 percentage points lower than the same period last year, he announced.

Although progress has been made in the first six months of 2003, SARS has influenced economic and social development in various aspects, especially the service industry.

SARS conditions have made the economic growth rate drop 2.1 percentage points, said Ding.

Tourism, catering, retailing and transportation are industries that suffered the biggest losses since April, when Beijing began to witness big amounts of new SARS cases.

For example, Beijing's tourism industry witnessed an income decrease of over 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) from April to June. Losses in retailing of daily commodities reached 8.1 billion yuan (US$975 million) since April.

But Ding revealed that SARS' negative impact towards the economy has weakened since late May.

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