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Public welfare stressed in drive toward development

By Zheng Jinran | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-03 07:27

As it continues to pursue rapid economic growth, the city of Handan is taking steps to improve quality of life for its citizens, enabling all to share in the fruits of development, according to the local government.

Located in the southern part of Hebei province, Handan is a major city of the Central Plains Economic Region, which covers the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River - Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Shanxi and Anhui provinces.

With a GDP that exceeded 300 billion yuan ($49 billion) in 2012, the city is the second-largest economy in this region. It is home to 20 large companies listed among the top 500 State-owned companies as well as top 500 private companies.

As a leading city in the trans-provincial economic partnership, Handan, with its population of nearly 10 million, plays an integral role in creating shared prosperity among these cities.

Now that the city is growing at such a rapid rate, the government has turned its attention toward improving social welfare, ensuring that society remains stable and the residents enjoy the fruits of the economic boom.

Social welfare

In 2013, the city's allocations for social welfare will total around 21 billion yuan, accounting for more than 70 percent of its fiscal expenditures.

The government plans 95 major actions in 17 key areas, such as employment, social security, affordable housing projects and education.

The government will create at least 100,000 jobs this year to ensure that 85 percent of new graduates will have job opportunities and to provide work for 80,000 surplus agricultural labors in rural areas.

The construction of more than 15,000 units of government-subsidized housing in urban areas started in 2013, Some 2,800 units were finished so far this year and another 23,000 units will be allocated to residents in need.

Affordable housing projects have been extended to the rural areas as well. The city government has invested more than 11.5 billion yuan in the construction of 542 new pilot villages since 2009 to build 89,600 homes in the rural areas.

The construction of 67,400 apartments has been completed to date, and rural citizens have already been relocated to 33,000 apartments.

In addition to making improvements to working and living conditions, local officials are striving to extend safe drinking water to all rural regions. By the end of 2013, about 770,000 residents from 632 villages in the city will have access to a safe tap water supply.

More than 600 new nursing homes will be built in rural areas, and other services for the elderly will be expanded. The medical treatment system in rural areas will be improved as well.

Meanwhile, 31 community health service centers will get better equipment and funding to provide sufficient medical services for urban residents in 2013.

With regard to education, the government has enhanced campus security at high schools, where buildings have installed protective facilities and other auxiliary projects.

The city has also invested around 438 billion yuan into urban construction. It has built projects like a city cultural center, four overpasses, a high-speed railway station, and it expanded the railway station square.

It is also improving the urban traffic system by extending expressways, railways and adding air routes, facilitating the local economic growth and proving easy travel for local people.

Blue skies, clean water

Furthermore, Handan's leaders have vowed to remain focused on the environment, making the city livable.

It has launched eight large projects aimed at reducing air pollution recently. The 560 detailed programs have been finished, resulting in observable improvements to local air quality.

River protection programs are going smoothly as well, which will help the main section of Fuyang River open to navigation by the end of 2013.

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