Investment in the future

Updated: 2012-03-07 08:06

(China Daily)

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Premier Wen Jiabao's announcement at the National People's Congress on Monday that fiscal expenditure on education will reach 4 percent of GDP this year is more than reassuring.

Such a pledge will ensure that China will finally meet one of the key government tasks that was originally supposed to have been accomplished more than a decade ago.

More importantly, by decisively increasing government spending on education to about 2 trillion yuan ($317 billion), the country has begun to invest adequately to prepare its people for the challenges that lie ahead.

While it has managed to overshoot most of its economic growth targets for many years, in spite of external shocks or domestic difficulties, China has unfortunately failed time and again to raise public spending on education to 4 percent of GDP, a national goal first proposed in 1993.

Besides, the Chinese people's complaints about the increasing burden of the rising costs of education mean it is urgent for the government to assume a greater role in financing public education for everyone.

Previous failures to meet this goal have always been justified by the numerous competing demands for money that the Chinese government has faced when it aggressively pursued investment-and-export-led growth.

However, as Chinese policymakers become increasingly aware of the necessity to transform the country's growth pattern and boost consumption, public expenditure on education is regarded as a badly needed investment in the future.

On the one hand, more government spending on education will allow Chinese people to loosen their purse strings to facilitate the country's pursuit of consumption-driven growth.

On the other hand, increased fiscal support for education will help lift the overall productivity of Chinese laborers to meet the challenges that both economic restructuring and the aging of the population will bring about sooner or later.

But even while applauding the government's vow to increase fiscal expenditure on education to 4 percent of GDP, we must understand that such a belated endeavor is just the first step toward making up the country's huge education deficit.

Moreover, to render better public education into a key source for sustainable growth in the future, Chinese policymakers should also spare no effort in boosting equal education to bridge the development gaps between and within rural and urban areas.

(China Daily 03/07/2012 page9)