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Premier pledges prosperity for all
Latest Updated by 2006-03-06 10:28:59
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Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday pledged to spread prosperity to all while placing the plight of the rural poor and people's well-being on top of the government's agenda.


To wide applause from the nearly 3,000 deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC), Wen outlined concrete steps to deal with problems related to the vital interests of the people, ranging from education, housing and medical treatment to employment.


In his government work report delivered on the opening day of the annual session of the top legislature at the Great Hall of the People, Wen warned of economic and social imbalances.


"We need to pay closer attention to balancing development between urban and rural areas... and promote social equity and social stability to ensure all the people can enjoy the fruits of reform and development," he said.


His call was apparently in response to the widening wealth gap, which threatens the nation's goal of building a harmonious society, following an annual growth of above 9 per cent over the past two decades.


The country's current Gini coefficient an international measurement of income disparity is estimated to have approached the danger level of 0.4.


In a two-hour, nationally-televised address, the premier vowed to maintain "fast yet steady" economic development this year and set a modest growth target of 8 per cent for the country's gross domestic product.


Last year, the government's target was also 8 per cent but actual growth reached 9.9 per cent.


The premier, known for his pragmatism and common touch, appeared cautious in setting out government goals for the coming year.


"While acknowledging our success, we must also see clearly that there are still many difficulties and problems in economic and social life," he said.


"Many long-standing and deep-seated conflicts have yet to be fundamentally solved, and a number of new problems have arisen that cannot be ignored."


A large section of Wen's 35-page speech was devoted to the government's plans to build a "new socialist countryside," home to nearly 800 million farmers suffering stagnant income growth.


"Building a new socialist countryside is a major historic task," Wen said while stressing the guiding principles of "industry replenishing agriculture and the cities supporting the countryside."


He said the government will spend 339.7 billion yuan (US$42.3 billion) this year and billions more in the future on upgrading agriculture and rural social services.


The government "will make a major change" to shift its priority in infrastructure investment from cities to the countryside to improve farmers' living conditions, he added.


The premier hailed the "epoch-making significance" of the government's goal of scrapping the 2,600-year-old agricultural tax throughout the country starting this year.


But he cautioned that building a new socialist countryside is "a long-term arduous task" and should not be pushed with a herd mentality.


Turning to the problems of most concern to the public, Wen said the government will "address people's concerns and ease their fears about the future" by improving social security and providing more affordable hospitals, housing and schools.


The central government will increase budget expenditure for nine-year compulsory education by 218.2 billion yuan (US$27 billion) over the next five years after waiving tuition and miscellaneous fees for all rural students by 2007, Wen told the deputies.


Meanwhile, the children of low-income urban families and rural families working in cities will also be given help to ensure all children have access to compulsory education.


To stimulate domestic demand, Wen said, the government will work to raise urban and rural incomes and encourage consumption.


And overheated property prices in some cities will be reined in so that affordable housing can be offered to urbanites, he said.


Wen vowed to increase financial support to help boost employment, create better medical and social security systems for all the people and improve workplace safety.


In the wide-ranging speech, the premier also issued another stern warning to Taiwan about any pro-independence attempt.


"We will uncompromisingly oppose secessionist activities aimed at Taiwan independence," he said.


"It is the people's will for cross-Straits relations to develop in the direction of peace, stability and mutual benefit. Anyone who vainly seeks to destroy this great trend will certainly fail."


On other fronts, the premier said the government will:


accelerate reforms in all sectors and continue making progress in major reforms;


attach strategic significance to accelerating scientific and technological development;


improve the pattern and quality of economic growth and accelerate the development of a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society;


promote balanced development among regions through developing the western, northeastern and central regions; improve the democratic system, enrich the forms of democracy, and expand orderly citizen participation in politics.


Editor: Yan

By: Source: China View website
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