Balanced development for China 03-07-2004 08:50

China's economic and social development plan, as well as its budget, were the topics of reports at Saturday's plenary meeting of the National People's Congress session. Ma Kai, Minister in charge of the State Development and Reform Commission, said China will this year target an economic growth of 7 percent and unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. But, most importantly, the government will do its utmost to help farmers chalk up an increase in income of 5 percent through fee-to-tax reform.

Although the set goal is 2 percent lower than in 2003, China's economic blueprint in 2004 is by no means less ambitious. Ma Kai, said in his report that China has to maintain an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent and keep price rises below 3 percent. Ma Kai explained the Central Government's new strategy. According to Ma Kai, "The focus in 2004 should be on restructuring the economy, changing the mode of development and increasing efficiency."

One priority is helping the country's millions of farmers to make money. The government is planning to slash taxes and fees imposed on farmers by 4.8 billion yuan annually over the next five years. The government will also provide training and more urban job opportunities to the rural population.

CPPCC member Wu Jianmin said, "The revenue of farmers lagged far behind those in the urban area. If we can not improve the living standard of farmers, that would be big problem."

To provide a cushion for the economic performance, the central government will continue reform in the state-owned sector. And the government will encourage the private economy with policies in finance, tax and land-use, equal to those in the state-owned sector.

CPPCC member Li Yining said, "The development of the private economy has provided and will provide large numbers of job opportunities as well as absorb the shocks of the stagnancy and even bankruptcy of state-owned enterprises."

This policy also applies to entrepreneurs from the Hong Kong and Macao SARs, seeking to capitalize on China's newly-adopted mantra of going northeast, an area far less developed than the coast.

The government's plan to reshuffle the economic structure will also see support for environmentally-friendly industries and high-tech sector. The goal is to improve the quality of the economy, rather than the figures alone.

Although it is still faced with the major challenges of raising farmers's incomes and achieving sustainable development, the central government seems determined to steer China's economy along a path of more balanced and coordinated growth.


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