Pressing Problems Get Attention They Deserve

Health care. Education. Transport. The environment. These are people's major concerns, according to several recent polls.
Now, they are addressed in the nation's 11th Five-Outlines (2006-10) along with other pressing matters as the country strives to improve the standard of living for all.
Health care: The plan proposes setting up a rural co-operative health insurance network to cover 80 per cent of rural residents, compared to the current 23.5 per cent.
With financial support from government, the scheme offers low-price basic health insurance to farmers.
"I have benefited from the health care system," said Fu Qiping, a deputy and farmer from Zhejiang Province.
"I hope more and more farmers will be able to enjoy the same health care conditions as our villager have."
Education: The plan sets the goal of increasing the average duration of education from 8.5 years to 9 years. It also vows to guarantee 9-year compulsory education for all girls, ethnic minority students and those from poor families.
"Tuition fees are too high," said Zhou Hongyu, an NPC deputy and a pedagogy professor at Central China Normal University based in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
But he noted that schools sometimes charge arbitrary fees because they could not get government funding.
Educational expenditure now accounts for less than 3 per cent of China's GDP; and the government has promised to increase the figure to 4 per cent by 2010.
Transport: The plan has an ambitious blueprint according to which 7,000 kilometers of railways will be built in the next five years, and the total length of roads will expand to 2.3 million kilometers including 65,000 kilometers of expressways.
"Many remote rural areas still do not have highway links. During festive periods, train tickets are hard to get," said Xu Kezhen, an NPC deputy and director of the Hubei Provincial Economic Commission.
Clean water: The plan vows to provide access to clean water to 100 million rural residents suffering from drought or excessive fluorine, arsenic, microbe or other contamination in drinking water.
Official statistics show 190 million rural residents have excessive hazardous elements in their drinking water, 63 million drink high-fluorine water, more than 2 million drink high-arsenic water, and 38 million drinking bitter or salty water.
"It would be a great relief if our rural folk can drink clean water, said NPC deputy Li Xiaodong, a government official from Shaanxi Province.
The National Development and Reform Commission has announced that the government will invest 4 billion yuan (US$500 million) this year alone to improve water safety for 20 million farmers.
The Five-Year Outlines will be put to vote at the closing of the NPC session on Tuesday.

(China Daily March 10, 2006)


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