Premier focuses on people´s well-being in policy briefing to parliament 03-05-2004 10:00

Briefing the national legislature Friday on government policies for 2004, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao laid stress on issues relating directly to the welfare of the country's 1.3 billion people, pledging higher rural incomes, more urban jobs and enhanced public safety.

"All power of the government is bestowed by the people, so the government must be accountable to the people, act in their interests and accept their oversight," said Wen in an annual duty report of his cabinet, the first in its five-year term, to a full session of the National People's Congress (NPC), or the China version of a parliament.

Nearly 3,000 lawmakers, or NPC deputies as they are formally called, gathered at the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing Friday morning to hear Wen's 31-page report, whose printed copies were released to the press prior to the opening of the 10-day parliamentary session at 9 o'clock, Beijing Time.

Announcing a major decision of his administration, Wen said the agricultural tax on the country's 900 million farmers would be rescinded in five years, with the current tax rate being reduced by more than 1 percentage point a year on average beginning this year.

In a further display of the government's determination to tackle the farmers issue, Wen vowed in an independent paragraph in his report to "basically solve the problem of wage arrears for migrant rural workers in the construction industry within three years", adding that the clearing-up should "begin with government-invested projects".

The premier also told the legislature that his government planned to create 14 million jobs in cities and towns in 2004, 9 million for the new urban workforce and 5 million for laid-off workers.

Acknowledging the people's rising concerns about public safety issues, the premier also proposed measures to drastically improve the country's existing public health system and to effectively check the frequent occurrence of major accidents that lead to heavy losses and casualties.

"We will try to establish within three years a fully functioning system for disease prevention and control and for emergency medical aid that covers both urban and rural areas, in order to increase our ability to deal with serious epidemic diseases and other public health emergencies," said Wen.

Before starting his address, which was broadcast live on national television, the premier bowed three times to the lawmakers, who will deliberate and examine his report and evaluate the government's performance in the ensuing days.

Editor:Xiao  Source:Xinhua News Agency

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