Premier Talks With NPC Deputies on Rural Issues

Premier Zhu Rongji participated in a meeting held by deputies of the National People's Congress (NPC) from Anhui Province, known as the cradle of rural reforms, discussing mainly rural issues, including tax-for-fees reform, reducing farmers' financial load, restructuring rural economy, and increasing farmers' income.

In his speech, Meng Fulin, chairman of the provincial people's congress, spoke highly of Zhu's report on the Outline of the Tenth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (2001- 2005).

The premier has assessed achievements China has made in the past five years and problems it will face in the next five years in a seeking-truth-from-facts attitude, Meng said.

Xu Zhonglin, the provincial governor who is invited to attended the NPC session as a non-voting deputy, reported Anhui's progress in piloting the tax-for-fees reform in rural areas.

In 2000, Anhui farmers had their financial burden lowered by 1. 69 billion yuan, or 31 percent, compared with the previous year. In the same year, per capita financial burden for farmers in this eastern province came to 75.5 yuan, down 33.9 yuan from the previous year, the governor said.

The tax-for-fees reform has been welcomed by local farmers, the governor said. He pledged to continue the reform this year to further increase farmers' income and protect their rights and interests.

Some other NPC deputies spoke out their views on reform of state enterprises, building water conservancy facilities, development of the social security system, and efforts to help factory layoffs find new jobs.

Premier Zhu praised Anhui for its reform-heralding local governments and people and encouraged the province to push ahead with reform and economic development in the new century.

"Agriculture is the foundation of the economy and it must be put on top agenda of economic work," the premier said. "China cannot achieve long-term stability and a sustained development without developing its agriculture, increasing farmers' income and stabilizing the countryside."

The premier called for giving top priority to increasing farmers' income, deepening various reforms, restructuring the farming sector and alleviating farmers' financial burdens. In major grain producing areas, all the grain farmers want to sell must be purchased, at official prices, he said.

The rural tax-for-fees reform and the effort to reduce farmer's financial load are fundamentally related to the general situation of agricultural development and rural work, he noted.

Zhu said that the central leadership has made arrangements for expanding the rural tax-for-fees reform in the country. The central government will allocate special subsidies for the implementation of the reform, he noted.

The premier also talked about the need to streamline township governments, deepen educational reform in the countryside, and reduce the size of township governments.

(People’s Daily 03/07/2001)