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1000 yuan, or universal welfare coverage?
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By Chen Yizhou

According to the 21st Century Business Herald on February 21, Xing Pu, a member of Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), proposed a motion during the conference session to give away 1,000 yuan to every Chinese citizen, allowing everyone to benefit from the high-speed increase in revenue.

However, the motion was denied by the committee. They won't even bother to put it on the record, claiming that it is an issue to the entire nation. Xing Pu reportedly said that he would find ways to submit his proposal to the CPPCC National Committee session scheduled to open in the first week of March.

Whether or not this proposal can be carried out or whether it's reasonable is moot because all proposals across the board require the same thing: academic discussions among the authorities and approval by the leaders. But significantly, whether or not such a motion could enter into material policy and regulation – "give away 1000 yuan to every citizen" has raised an entirely new subject: how can ordinary people enjoy the benefits from China's rapid economic growth? Actually, when our country has abundant wealth in hand, investing more money into the public welfare may be a better way to achieve this idealistic vision.

In the face of increasingly higher CPIs and slowed growth of personal incomes, more people are feeling a sense of crisis and anxiety. Indeed, commodity prices, housing, educational and medical expenses are all on the rise. But at present no immediate solution for the "living crisis" works – and just improving incomes would act as a short-term fix. In fact, we must find a balance point between long-term economic controls and short-term consumer pressure relief.

This crux revolves around public welfare. Please look at it this way: if public welfare were to be taken to a certain higher level, for example, if we built plenty of affordable rental houses, gave residential allowances to various lower income groups, and set up government-led nursing homes to meet demands of elderly citizens... then, even if the housing prices weren't lowered for some time, the public would still have confidence in their future security.

Additionally, some public components, such as education, healthcare and various other citizen-related areas, should also see investment increases. The government should make public welfare visible and material, improve the social security system and realize secondary wealth distribution in order to maintain social justice. In effect this is eminently more useful than simply allocating some bonuses to people in need. It would have more power toward stimulating the domestic needs and boosting the economy.

As our economy develops, so should public welfare improve: this is the ultimate responsibility and mission of any government in modern society. When a nation boasts strong national power, it ideally also offers universal public welfare for its citizens. This is the outcome of good government operating at any level. This is the path we must focus upon for positive change in China.

(China.org.cn February 27, 2008)

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