People's livelihoods first

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The new budget report that the ongoing session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) reviews will be a milestone on the country's path of substantially improving people's living standards.

After more than three decades of robust economic growth, it is high time for policymakers to focus on addressing the issues that are now the people's top concerns.

According to the Ministry of Finance, China's fiscal expenditure will reach 10.02 trillion yuan ($1.53 trillion) this year. That is not only an increase of 11.9 percent on the previous year, it is also the country's first annual budget to exceed 10 trillion yuan.

Both the rate of growth and the size of this budget give cause for optimism.

The projected double-digit growth in revenues is striking evidence of the remarkable growth momentum of the Chinese economy. And a budget that exceeds 10-trillion-yuan speaks volume about China's financial strength.

More encouragingly, Chinese policymakers plan to spend two-thirds of the central budget on improving people's livelihoods in 2011.

The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) period witnessed eye-catching growth, but the country has found it more urgent than ever to decisively rein in the steady decline in people's income as a share of gross domestic product now that its economy can no longer rely on investment and export for growth.

To sustain China's growth, policymakers have recognized the necessity of boosting people's livelihoods to accelerate consumer-led growth and promote social harmony.

The new central budget attempts to tilt overall expenditures in favor of sectors closely related to people's lives like education, health care, social security, employment, low-income housing and culture.

Given the huge wealth gap that exists between the rich and the poor, it is certainly unrealistic to expect that a single budget will make a big and immediate dent on the country's income disparity.

But this shift in fiscal priorities toward people's livelihoods, long overdue, is crucial to gradually narrowing the income disparity which might otherwise lock the country in the middle-income trap, which is a failure of emerging economies to further push living standards closer to those of rich economies.

To make the 12th Five-Year plan (2011-2015) a cornerstone to achieve sustainable and inclusive development, it is wise for Chinese policymakers to make full use of the growing national coffers to enrich people as fast and fairly as possible.

Top lawmakers who are attending the NPC annual session in Beijing should endorse such a pro-livelihood budget.

Moreover, they should urge and direct Chinese policymakers to ensure that even bigger strides will be continuously made along this path.

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