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Environment 'priority' for nation

By Lan Lan and Yang Jun in Guiyang ( China Daily)

Updated: 2014-07-23

Asian Development Bank: China can help drive economic growth across region

China remains a major driver for economic growth in Asia, but ecological and environmental issues still top the nation's major challenges, said Hamid Sharif, the Asian Development Bank's country director for China.

The pace of the growth moderation in China conforms to the bank's expectations. China will remain a driver for the region's growth despite the slight drop in the first quarter, Sharif said in an interview with China Daily in Guiyang, Guizhou.

The bank maintains its forecast for China's economic growth at 7.5 percent for this year and 7.4 percent for 2015, said a report released by the bank on Friday.

"In the long run, China will grow more slowly, but in comparison with the performance of some developed countries, it's still doing well. As the economy gets bigger, the base is getting bigger, too, and high-speed growth will be more difficult," he said.

Trying to achieve a balance between economic growth and ecological and environmental problems remains the biggest challenge facing China, said Sharif.

Although the Chinese public is increasingly concerned about environmental issues such as air and water quality, it will take time for local officials to change the way they operate.

Because officials have been evaluated by GDP growth for many years, a new evaluation system that puts greater emphasis on the environment will take years for local officials to adapt to, he said.

"It takes time, but the good thing is that the message has gone down to all levels," he said.

The ADB is working with local governments on various projects including clean coal technology, carbon capture, renewable energy and waste energy projects.

In 2013, the ADB's lending assistance to China totaled $1.54 billion, comprising 12 projects across four sectors: agriculture and natural resources, energy, transportation, and the urban and social sectors.

"Our total funding to China is relatively small. We want to work with the Chinese government in addressing environmental issues and poverty reduction, particular, in central and western China, so our projects are those that are demonstrative and innovative," Sharif said.

The bank is working with the governments in different provinces to address the need for technical education, among both the urban and rural populations, he said.

The ADB is also exploring innovative financing mechanisms to fund environmentally friendly projects in China.

The bank signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this month to support watershed financing in Guizhou province.

The ADB and the provincial government are working on a public-private funding mechanism for protecting the Chishui watershed, said Sharif. It is the first public-private-partnership fund for watershed protection in China.

A PPP is a long-term, contractual partnership between public and private-sector agencies to provide infrastructure and other services.

Total PPP funding for protecting the Chishui watershed is expected to reach 5 billion yuan, and if the model works well, it can be copied elsewhere in China, he said.

Li Jun contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at lanlan@chinadaily.com.cn and yangjun@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 07/23/2014 page18)

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