The Chinese government will give top priority to agriculture, rural areas and farmers in terms of expenditures in the central budget for this year, Finance Minister Jin Renqing said at the national legislature's annual session Saturday.
Total expenditures will increase by more than 30 billion yuan, or 20 percent over last year, to address the problems facing agriculture, rural areas and farmers, Jin said in a budget report.
Except for tobacco, the tax on special agricultural products will be rescinded in 2004 and the overall agricultural tax rate will be reduced by over 1 percentage point, with a greater reduction for major grain producing areas and grain producers, reducing the burden on farmers by as much as 11.8 billion yuan.
Agricultural taxes will be rescinded in five years, he said.
Funds totaling 39.6 billion yuan in the form of transfer payments from the 2004 central budget will be set aside for the reform of taxes and administrative charges in rural areas, a year-on-year increase of 9.1 billion yuan.
At the same time, 10 billion yuan from the grain risk fund will be given directly to grain producers in 13 major grain producing provinces this year as subsidies, and more budgetary funds will be used to develop agricultural infrastructure, development forests for ecological conservation, make advanced in agricultural science and technology, train farmers, provide relief for agricultural disasters and fight poverty.
"Investment will be increased for employment work and social security," the minister said.
This year, the government plans to increase reemployment assistance funds by 3.6 billion yuan, 76.6 percent more than last year, to promote employment and reemployment.
The government will also allocate 77.9 billion yuan from the 2004 central budget to guarantee that living allowances for workers laid off from state-owned enterprises and basic old-age pensions for retirees from these enterprises are paid on time and in full and ensure that low-income urban residents receive their subsistence allowances.
A total of 17 billion yuan will be allocated in subsidies for enterprises that close down or go bankrupt in order to promote economic restructuring, the minister said.
As a move to boost development of in the fields of education, health, science and technology, culture and sports, the government plans to allocate 95.5 billion yuan from the 2004 central budget, a year-on-year increase of 10 billion yuan, with priority mainly given to rural areas.
(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2004)