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College students get meal subsidies
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China's Ministry of Finance announced on Saturday that it would offer a provisional meal subsidies totaling 50.76 million yuan (6.86 million U.S. dollars) to college students to help stabilize school canteen prices as the autumn semester is drawing to an end.

The ministry said in a statement that the move was meant to fulfil the central government's requirement of "raising the subsidies for college canteens," which has been reiterated at key conferences, including the Central Economic Work Conference.

The money would go to universities and colleges directly under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education.

Largely on the strength of food price increases, China's key inflation indicator surged to an 11-year high of 6.9 percent in November, triggering fears of continued inflation. Food prices surged 18.2 percent in November from a year earlier, compared with 17.6 percent in October.

Grain prices rose 6.6 percent year-on-year, while cooking oil prices increased 35 percent. Pork prices, blamed for the recent increase in the consumer price index, soared 56 percent.

These increases have driven up prices in college canteens and added to the burden of students' families, especially those with relatively lower incomes.

In September, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education announced it would allocate 25.16 million yuan for five months of subsidies to canteens in the city's higher education institutions. The commission also urged universities and vocational schools to offer temporary subsidies to students from low-income families. Further, universities and colleges in the national capital were told to ban the public from campus canteens.

Amid efforts to tame inflation, China announced it would freeze prices of major consumer products subject to government controls or regulations. The country was forced, however, to raise prices of gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel by nearly 10 percent from Nov. 1 amid a supply shortfall.

To cap price rises, the government also said it would boost production of necessities and major agricultural products, clamp down on price rigging and extend allowances to low-income residents.

(Xinhua News Agency December 30, 2007)


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