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Narrowing wealth gap high on Party's agenda
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
2007-10-16 07:27

The country will press ahead with the reform of its income distribution system to reverse the growing wealth gap, Party General Secretary Hu Jintao said yesterday in a keynote speech at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

"We will increase transfer payments, intensify the regulation of incomes through taxation, break business monopolies, create equal opportunities and overhaul income distribution practices with a view to gradually reversing the growing income disparity," he told more than 2,200 delegates to the congress.

Hu's report yesterday officially included the subject of "people's livelihood".

He said although a relatively comfortable standard of living has been achieved for the people as a whole, the trend of a growing gap in income distribution has not been thoroughly reversed, and it has become more difficult to accommodate the interests of all sides.

"However, equitable income distribution is an important indication of social equity," he said.

Hu pledged that a reasonable and orderly pattern of income distribution will be put in place, with middle-income people making up the majority, and absolute poverty will be basically eliminated.

"Vigorous efforts will be made to raise the incomes of low-income groups, gradually increase poverty-alleviation aid and the minimum wage, and set up a mechanism of regular pay increases for enterprise employees," Hu said.

He also made it clear the Party will protect lawful incomes.

The reform of the income distribution system is only one of the blueprints Hu mapped out for improving people's livelihoods over the next five years. His report also had detailed plans for the development of education, employment, medical and old-age care, and housing.

He said the country aimed:

To promote the balanced development of compulsory education, speed up the development of senior middle-school education and vocational education. The country will also work to ensure children from poor families and those of rural migrant workers living in cities enjoy the same access to compulsory education as urban children.

To establish a unified, standardized labor market and a mechanism that ensures equal employment opportunities for both urban and rural residents. The country will also improve employment help for the needy and make it a priority to find jobs for zero-employment families.

To establish a sound social security system based on social insurance, assistance and welfare, with basic old-age pensions, medical care and subsistence allowances as its backbone, and supplemented by charity and commercial insurance. The country will also improve the low-rent housing system and speed up the resolution of the housing difficulties of low-income families in urban areas.

To maintain the public welfare nature of public medical and healthcare services, focus on rural areas and attach equal importance to traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine.

Experts said Hu's speech set a clear direction for future development to achieve a harmonious society.

"It (the report) says clearly how to build a harmonious, well-off society in an all-round way," Li Junru, vice-president of the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, said yesterday.

Li said it is also the first time the subject of the "people's livelihood" had been officially included in a Party report, showing it had a high position on the Party's agenda.

The principle of putting people first has been a long-time guideline of the CPC, and the concept of a harmonious society has been emerging since Hu took office, resulting in the abolition of ancient agricultural taxes and free education in poor rural areas.

Xinhua contributed to the story

(China Daily 10/16/2007 page5)


  Hu Jintao -- General Secretary of CPC Central Committee
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