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Proposal questionable
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To restore May Day golden week or not to restore - that is the controversy.

The three public holidays for May Day, National Day and Spring Festival, plus four weekend days, became well known as golden weeks after they were first adopted in 1999 in a bid to promote tourism.

Three-day holidays were cut to one for May Day last year because of the problems caused by overcrowded public transport, following the spike in tourist numbers. It was also because Tomb Sweeping Day in early April, Dragon Boat Festival in June and Mid-Autumn Day in September were also made public holidays. The total number of public holidays has increased by one day.

Yet, some NPC deputies and CPPCC members at the ongoing plenary sessions have proposed restoring the golden week around May Day.

But others strongly oppose this, arguing that an additional golden week will not necessarily boost consumption.

South China's Guangdong province has already called on people to enjoy their paid leave during the May Day holiday.

Chongqing municipality has applied to the State Council to reinstate the golden week on a trial basis.

Several online surveys have revealed that more than 90 percent of respondents want one more golden week.

It seems that voices for bringing it back are much stronger than those opposed.

Yet, policy makers need to be prudent in weighing the economic advantages and disadvantages of allocating two more public holidays to the May Day spell.

Revenue for tourism will likely increase if the May Day holiday is extended to a week. But whether this increase will make a difference in dire economic terms is questionable.

The more than 20 million newly laid-off rural migrant workers won't be taking any sightseeing trips. And those whose incomes fall amid the economic downturn may have second thoughts about traveling.

So there is not enough reason to expect that one more golden week holiday will expand domestic consumption to such a degree it could boost economic growth.

It is also doubtful that one more week off will help create jobs.

As much as 90 percent of respondents to online surveys for the proposal do not necessarily long for sightseeing trips even if the golden week is restored. Several hundred million people traveling during the same week can make for an awful experience.

The fact that the number of people taking long trips has been steadily decreasing during past golden weeks proves that their stimulatory effects are limited.

In addition, one more week-long holiday will do almost nothing to restructure the economic growth mode that has long been considered unsustainable.

So prudence is needed on this issue. Maybe more thought should be given to how to increase people's incomes and how to develop a social security system that will encourage them to spend not save.

(China Daily March 9, 2009)

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