URUMQI - The government of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has vowed to make more efforts to achieve rapid development and long-term stability during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period.
"To fulfill the strategic goal of rapid development set by the central government, fundamental work is needed and requires great effort," Nur Berkri, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, said in an interview with China Daily.
"We regional administrators always focus on economic development, especially the growth of GDP, but I don't think we should go out of our way to court GDP growth," the chairman said.
"Competent governors usually implement fundamental projects and bring long-term benefits to people," he added.
For Nur Berkri, the fundamental projects most needed for Xinjiang's economic and social development are infrastructure construction, education and environmental protection.
In the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) period, Xinjiang saw rapid development in infrastructure construction, including water conservation, transportation and communication.
In the past five years, Xinjiang spent nearly 70 billion yuan ($10.6 billion) to improve its transportation system and build asphalt roads for each town and village.
"Before that, rural people had to prepare two suits when they went to markets in towns and cities. One was dirty for village roads, the other was clean for city markets," said Nur Berkri. "Now people in Xinjiang have said goodbye to this way of life."
However, infrastructure construction in Xinjiang is still "far from enough".
"Current infrastructure development can't meet the demand of realizing rapid development in Xinjiang," the chairman said.
For example, there are only 1,100 kilometers of high-grade highways in Xinjiang, though the region accounts for one-sixth of China's territory.
"The mileage of high-grade highways in a smaller coastal province is several times that in Xinjiang," he added.
Solid educational foundation is vital to Xinjiang's economic and social development, said the chairman, who worked as a teacher in his 20s.
"I have received great benefit from educational development and insisted on developing education for decades," Nur Berkri said. At present, there is a big regional gap in higher education, especially in southern Xinjiang's Kashgar region, Hotan prefecture and Aksu prefecture, the chairman said.
In 2010, only 20 to 30 percent of junior high school graduates in those areas received higher education because of a shortage of schools and poor living conditions.
This year, the Xinjiang government will give priority to the development of higher and vocational education. A batch of senior high schools is under construction. Students from poor families will get annual allowances of 2,000 yuan if they go to senior high schools. And those entering vocational schools will be exempt from tuition, rent and textbook fees.
"Xinjiang's development needs educated youngsters, no matter what ethnic group they are. Through our 20 years of effort, this generation will provide an extraordinary drive for Xinjiang's development," he said.
Nur Berkri was honored as the "Mayor of Environmental Protection" when he worked as head of the regional capital city Urumqi from 1998 to 2000.
During his tenure, he advocated the idea of "giving priority to eco-environment", planting thousands of trees in the city and implementing the "Blue Sky Project" aimed at controlling air pollution in winter.
"I'm quite eager to receive a new title - 'chairman of environmental protection', in a bid to raise people's awareness," Nur Berkri said, laughing.
The eco-environment in Xinjiang is "too fragile to be abused in the silly way of the past" - controlling pollution after the environment has been polluted, he said.
"Through more than a decade's effort, we've just seen preliminary success," he said, "The winter snow downtown can now stay white for at least three to five days. It used to turn black overnight.
"Environmental pollution happens easily, while controlling pollution is tough and takes decades of work."