Mar. 5, 2013 (TSR) – China’s central budget for 2013 features notable spending increases in areas closely related to quality of life, including education, healthcare, social security and public housing.

Government spending on medical and health care increased by 27.1 percent year on year to 260.25 billion yuan (41.31 billion U.S. dollars), according to the central budget report submitted to the first session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature, on Tuesday.

This year’s spending increases were the second highest since 2008.

Several measures in the government work report, which is also tabled for discussion, explained the increase.

According to the report, the government plans to raise the annual government subsidies for the new rural cooperative medical care system and basic medical insurance for non-working urban residents from 240 yuan to 280 yuan per person, respectively.

The per capita payment standard for basic public health services will be increased from 25 yuan to 30 yuan.

The central budget for education increased by 9.3 percent to 413.25 billion yuan, and a total of 54.05 billion yuan will be spent in culture, sports and media, up 9.3 percent over last year.

Social security and employment will receive 655.08 billion yuan, an increase of 13.9 percent.

A total of 223 billion yuan will go to providing adequate housing, 5.3 percent more than the budgeted figure for last year but 14.3 percent less than actual spending last year.

In the government work report, Premier Wen Jiabao said the government will improve the expenditure utilization structure.

The government will give priority to education, medical and health care, social security and other areas of weakness that are important to people’s well-being, while controlling regular expenditures like administrative expenses, Wen said.

Budgeted government investment will mainly go to government-subsidized housing projects, infrastructure projects related to agriculture, water conservation and urban utilities networks, social programs and other projects to improve people’s well-being, as well as energy conservation, emissions reduction and environmental protection.

Budget increases toward public welfare sectors will not only benefit the livelihood of common people but also attract more non-government capital in these fields, said Li Chaogang, an NPC deputy and Party chief of Fengtai district in southwest Beijing.

Over the past five years, an annual survey conducted by Xinhua’s website ahead of the NPC sessions showed that respondents were most concerned about the income gap, housing prices, employment, education and medical services.

“Government spending should play a role of ensuring social justice. It should ensure that all people enjoy the fruits of the country’s economic development,” said Mei Yonghong, an NPC deputy and mayor of Jining City in east China’s Shandong Province.

To examine the central and local budgets, lawmakers assembled the financial and economic committee of the 12th NPC when the session opened on Tuesday.

Members of the other special committees of the NPC will be determined prior to the end of the session.

Chinese Leaders highlight integrated development in urban and rural regions

Chinese leaders stressed on Tuesday that development in urban and rural regions must be integrated and urbanization should be carried out in an orderly way.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang said that to solve problems and continue to advance a sustained, healthy development of the economy, the key is to speed up economic transformation, push for industrialization, informatization, urbanization and agricultural modernization in a synchronized way.

Li made the remarks while joining a panel discussion with lawmakers from east China’s Shandong Province at the ongoing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top legislature.

It was important to achieve coordinated development between urban and rural areas, the vice premier said.

He said urbanization and agricultural modernization are complementary to each other.

“We should improve the productivity of the countryside while enhancing the capacity of cities to accommodate people,” he said.

“We must work harder to improve the livelihood of the people, and boost the living standards of urban and rural residents while pushing economic development,” Li added.

Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said urbanization should be carried out in an active yet steady way to “orderly push forward the transition of the rural population into urban residents.”

While joining the panel discussion with NPC deputies from central China’s Hubei Province, Yu said the wills of farmers must be fully respected and no urbanization work should be carried out forcefully.

He said the country’s industrialization, informatization, urbanization and agricultural modernization should be advanced in a synchronized way.

Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang also stressed that urban and rural development should be integrated and the rural-urban gap narrowed in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

While participating in the panel discussion of NPC deputies from east China’s Zhejiang Province, Zhang said the development of rural areas and agriculture as well as raising incomes of farmers should not be neglected while emphasizing the development of cities and industries and wage increase of urban residents.

First published in Xinhua.

 

“The gap between rural and urban areas lies fundamentally in their development disparity,” Zhang said.

Efforts must be made to realize the integrated development in urban and rural regions so as to narrow the urban-rural gap, Zhang said.

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