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Campaign to get farmers paid for lost land
By Tang Min (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-20 22:51

More landless farmers can expect compensation owed to them in the near future, Land and Resources Minister Sun Wensheng promised Tuesday.

The central government kicked off another national investigation into land use.

Five central governmental departments are involved this time -- the Ministry of Land and Resources, the State Development Planning Commission, the Ministry of Supervision, the Ministry of Construction and the National Audit Office.

The move follows a similar investigation last year, which was aimed at retrieving large areas of arable land taken up by illegal development zones across the country. Local governments use these zones to attract outside investment with preferential polices.

During last year's investigation the central government discovered that a total of 9.9 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) in compensation for farmers was still owed.

Although 6 billion yuan (US$723.5 million) has been paid since then, the central government wants to accelerate the process.

The new investigation will help figure out major obstacles, said Sun.

Nine investigation teams will probe land use in more than 20 Chinese cities this time.

Observers have approved of the new campaign, attaching great importance to the settlement of the compensations as a positive reaction by the central government to surging appeals.

Official statistics indicate around 40 million farmers have lost their cultivated land in the past seven years, when the country's total arable land decreased by 6.7 million hectares. Many have been refused proper compensation.

Zhang Xinbao, director of the Supervision Division of the Ministry of Land and Resources, said the ministry is pushing strenuously for settlements.

The major obstacle is the lack of co-operation on the part of some local governments, he said.

That is also why only 3,763 development zones and industrial parks of the country's total 6,015 have so far been successfully closed in the wake of last year's investigation.

There are only 1,251 approved development zones.

To ensure a satisfactory result of the campaign, on July 18 in 2003 the Ministry of Land and Resources suspended the approval of new development zones and the expansion of old ones, Wang, an official with a State-level development zone in East China's Jiangsu Province who did not give his full name, applauded the move to check the emergence of illegal development zones last year, saying vicious competition for outside funds posed by these illegal development zones had caused the land to devaluate in the eyes of investors.

Tuesday, however, he expressed concern, saying the ban on expansion has dampened the prospects of their development zone to fulfill an ambitious jump in output value for this year.

"The investigation this time can really go somewhere and put things back on track soon," he said, declining to disclose his full name on the paper.

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