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China targets early completion of post-quake rebuilding
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China had invested 360 billion yuan (about 52.7 billion U.S. dollars) in post-earthquake reconstruction as of April, one-third of the planned total, and hoped to complete all work within two years, a government official said at a press conference Friday.

According to Mu Hong, vice director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, most rebuilding of basic housing and infrastructure had begun and shown considerable progress.

The government planned to complete reconstruction before September 2010, after starting in September last year. The target was one year earlier than previously expected.

"Reconstruction work has gotten off to a good start, as one-third of the plan has been completed in one-fourth of the scheduled time," Mu said.

The planned investment totaled about 1 trillion yuan and covered more than 200,000 projects. It included 300 billion yuan of direct investment from the central government, of which 154 billion yuan had been already gone into the rebuilding, Mu said.

With sufficient funding, reconstruction of essential infrastructure, such as railroads, highways and airports, was able to be completed and the facilities returned to service, he said.

Up to 95.7 percent of the reconstruction for rural houses had started, 76.6 percent of which had been finished, according to Mu.

Tang Kai, director of the urban planning department of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said rural residents in Sichuan Province's quake zone would be back in permanent houses by this winter.

Urban residents would be in new homes before September 2010, as 48.9 percent of urban houses had been reinforced and reconstruction of 40.1 percent of the destroyed houses had begun, with 8.9 percent finished.

He said 98 percent of the factories and 95 percent of the shops had re-opened.

Schools had also been a focus of the rebuilding, as 70 percent of the students were back in permanent schools, and the government vowed to have all students in permanent schools by next spring, according to Mu.

The government had tightened supervision of the use of reconstruction funds, and so far there had been no report of misuse, Mu said, stressing the government would also tighten supervision on construction quality.

The National Audit Office (NAO) had conducted audits of more than 1,500 projects as of March 31, covering nearly 50 billion yuan.

There are about 1,600 auditors at construction sites in the quake-hit regions tracing fund use in reconstruction projects. They are required to cover above 60 percent of all the central funded and more than 80 percent of the total local government funded appropriations, according to NAO.

The magnitude-8.0 quake that hit Sichuan and other parts of southwest China last May 12 killed more than 69,000 people. It also left nearly 18,000 missing, more than 374,000 injured and millions homeless.

(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2009)

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