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Illegal Land Use Must Be Controlled: Premier
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Excessive use of land for construction and industrial purposes required to be controlled and the rights of farmers protected. New measures on the subject were announced yesterday at a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.

A State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday decided that:

* Charges for land use rights and tax on land use should be raised to curb increasing encroachment onto farmland.

* Revenue from the transfer of land use rights should be part of local government budgets instead of being held by local land departments as is the current practice.

* Top local government officials should be held responsible for land management and farmland protection.

* Farmers whose land is taken away should be compensated adequately to allow them to maintain their quality of life.

The meeting also noted increasing cases of violations of laws and regulations in land acquisition.

Statistics from the Ministry of Land and Resources indicate that one in three construction projects in recent years are on land acquired illegally. Between October 2004 and May 2005 the figure jumped to one in two of all projects.

However, experts say it's not easy to curb the trend. Lin Yueqin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said many local governments want to acquire more land for projects to boost the economy. This has long been considered an indicator of how they're performing in their careers. Also some local officials wished to fatten their own wallets by illegally transferring land for non-farming purposes, observed Lin.

At the meeting Wen urged the nine recently established land inspection bureaus to strengthen supervision of land acquisition deals nationwide. 

China's arable land has dropped from 130 million hectares in 1996 to 122 million last year and nearly 40 million farmers have lost their land. Per capita arable land was 0.093 hectares which is a third of the global average.

Wen called for steady growth of the economy in the second half of the year. He said more attention should be given to the structure of the economy and the pattern of economic growth. The nation would focus more on energy saving and environmental protection to promote sustainable development.

He demanded more efforts be made in such areas as raising farmers' incomes, curbing overheated investment in fixed assets and boosting consumption.

Wen added that in the next five years China would create 45 million jobs, re-employ 45 million laborers in rural areas and keep urban unemployment below 5 percent.

(China Daily July 28, 2006)


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