A major part of the reconstruction fund will be used to help farmers rebuild their homes destroyed or damaged in the May 12 earthquake, the central government said yesterday.
"The government plans to allot 70 billion yuan ($10.14 billion) this year to set up a reconstruction fund for the quake-hit areas, out of which 40 billion yuan will be used to subsidize the rebuilding and repair of farmers' homes," Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu said.
Submitting a report to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, Hui said the Sichuan quake was the most destructive to hit New China. It has affected almost all parts of the country, making rescue and relief a big challenge.
Latest figures show more than 7.79 million houses were destroyed and 24.5 million damaged, most of them in rural areas.
The priorities of the relief work are still resettlement of survivors and the displaced, repairing infrastructure and preventing outbreak of disease.
Submitting another report to the country's top legislature, Finance Minister Xie Xuren said the 30 billion yuan from the reconstruction fund will be used to reconstruct public buildings such as schools and hospitals and repair infrastructure, including roads and electricity facilities.
Xie said 60 billion yuan of the fund will come from the stability and regulation fund of the central budget.
It will get 5 billion from vehicle purchase tax, 4 billion from the State-owned assets operations budget and 1 billion from the welfare lottery fund.
This is the first time the government has given the sources of the fund and its expenditure plans, which have to get the NPC's approval.
Legislators supported the setting up of the fund but called for careful administration and supervision.
"We hope to see detailed reconstruction plans and regulatory measures as early as possible," said Zhu Zhigang, deputy director of the NPC's financial and economics affairs committee.
"The fund should be audited and its reports submitted to the NPC and its Standing Committee."
Acknowledging the government's swift response to the quake and its prompt relief work, legislators said the disaster has taught us that the disaster-prevention and response system should be improved.
"Public buildings such as schools and hospitals should be more quake-resistant," Yang Deqing, an NPC Standing Committee member, said.
Another committee member Zhao Keming said soldiers should be given more training in disaster relief. They should be armed with better equipment because usually they comprise the main force in any disaster rescue and relief work.
(China Daily June 25, 2008)