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Wen pledges prosperity for all
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-06 05:37

"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$42.2 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.

Wen pledges prosperity for all
Cai Mingzhao (bottom, Center), vice-minister of the Information Office of the State Council listens to a government work report by Premier Wen Jiabao at the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC) in the Great Hall of the People to attend in China's capital Beijing March 5, 2006. [Xinhua]

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.

(China Daily 03/06/2006 page1)

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