Foreign experts fix eyes on China's livelihood agenda at sessions

14:45, March 11, 2010      

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Scholars overseas are focusing their attention on China's measures to improve employment, education, health care, and housing for the people as deputies to China's top legislature gathered in Beijing to debate how to address these issues.

Improving people's well-being is the fundamental goal of economic development, Premier Wen Jiabao said Friday in his government work report to the annual session of the National People's Congress.

"Everything we do is to ensure that the people live a happier life with more dignity and to make our society fairer and more harmonious," Wen said.

Richard Baum, former director of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies, told Xinhua that "putting people first" is a noble idea and to achieve that, the Chinese government should first annihilate poverty and lead its people to have a good life.

Baum said China needs to pay more attention to equitable distribution.

"There should be equitable re-distribution of wealth between coastal and interior provinces and between rural and urban areas," he said.

Baum noted that China has started to put more investment into the interior region. "That's good. It could take a while and it shows China's real commitment to raising the level of living standard of the general public," he said.

Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asia Institute of the National University of Singapore, said China's economic development in the past decades has laid a solid foundation for the reform of social security and welfare system, and in return, that would further promote economic reform.

China is now putting more emphasis on investing in employment, education, health care, social security and so on with the aim of improving people's living conditions and establishing a consumer society, Zheng said.

"The foundation of social policy is to create an equitable society, and this will form the base for steady political restructuring in the future of China," he said.

According to Justin Yifu Lin, senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank, the biggest challenge in China's economy is employment.

"Employment is the biggest challenge that the financial crisis brought to us," he said. "The society will not be stable unless the employment problem is solved."

Another problem is income distribution, he warned. "But income distribution is also connected with employment."

"Income and employment are the two sides of a coin," Lin said.

Tarek El Sonoty, head of the diplomatic section of Al Massai Daily in Egypt, said China also is facing the challenge of rural development.

"Much efforts and large sums of money need to be put in this project," Sonoty said.

The other challenge faced by China is clean energy, especially the solar power, Sonoty said.

Baum, speaking on the distribution of wealth, said there should be a better tax system in China to make sure that rich people pay their share of taxes.

He insisted more assistance should be provided to small scale private enterprises, and children in rural areas should get the same quality of education as do city children.

Choung Hae-hoon, chairman of the Korean Northern Relations Council, said China's educational reform was aimed at increasing the amount of people who can get an education, and to produce more high-quality intellectuals.

However, the reality is not satisfying. If high-quality educational resources are concentrated on a minority of people, the majority would lose the opportunity to get a proper education, he said.

BBC Chinese Director Li Wen said the fundamental goal of China's health care reform is to ensure that all people get basic health care. He said that is the government's responsibility.

At the same time, various levels of medical services should be allowed to meet various demands of the patients, he said.

With regard to soaring house prices, Baum said there should be stricter regulations on real estate developers and local governments.

Dr. Guo Shengxiang, an economic researcher at the Reserve Bank of Australia, said the government should be responsible for building more low-cost and affordable houses.

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