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Vice premier outlines eight-year plan for quake zone
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Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Tuesday outlined an eight-year plan for reconstruction and development for areas devastated by the May 12 earthquake.

Delivering a report to the country's top legislature, Hui said, "Our priorities are resettling the affected people, repairing infrastructure and preventing disease outbreaks and earthquake-related disasters.

"The earthquake caused huge losses, and reconstruction is a pressing and long-term task," said Hui who is also deputy head of the State Council's earthquake relief headquarters at the opening of the third session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress.

The focus of the operation had shifted from rescue to relief and reconstruction.

"We plan to spend three years to complete preliminary reconstruction and further develop the quake-hit regions in the following five years," he said.

To fund relief and reconstruction, the State Council tabled a plan on adjustment of central budget to establish a reconstruction fund at the Tuesday's NPC session.

Hui said 40 billion yuan from the reconstruction fund would be dedicated to subsidize the rebuilding and repair of farmers' homes.

Minister of Finance Xie Xuren said the central government would allocate 70 billion yuan (10.14 billion U.S. dollars) this year to establish a reconstruction fund for the quake-hit regions, which will be included in this year's budget.

Sixty billion yuan would come from the stability and regulation fund of the central budget, 5 billion from vehicle purchase tax revenue, 1 billion from the welfare lottery fund, and 4 billion from the state-owned assets operations budget.

To date, 54.31 billion yuan from both central and local governments had been allocated to relief and reconstruction.

Xie said the government will strengthen administration and supervision of the fund, and prevent embezzlement of the fund.

"Reports on fund use will be made to the NPC and its Standing Committee," he added.

After the earthquake, more than 7.78 million homes collapsed and 24.5 million were damaged, latest figures showed.

The earthquake had claimed 69,181 lives and left 374,171 injured and 18,498 missing as of noon on Monday.

"The quake in Sichuan was the most destructive one ever occurred in China which affects almost all parts of the country and presents the greatest difficulty in disaster rescue and relief," Hui said after summarizing the rescue and relief operation at the meeting chaired by Wu Bangguo, the NPC Standing Committee chairman.

Since the earthquake centered on Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, 84,017 survivors had been rescued from the debris, more than 2.04 million injured hospitalized and 15.1 million people relocated to safe areas.

Last month, the Cabinet had ordered central government departments to cut budgets by 5 percent this year to help the disaster relief operation. The government also called on the public to live more frugally and vowed to freeze the approval of any new office buildings for government bodies.

The government also promised further funds would be allocated for the reconstruction of quake-hit areas in the following years.

(Xinhua News Agency June 24, 2008)

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