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Better Lives of Farmers, Herdsmen Top Priority in Tibet

Qiangba Puncog, who was re-elected chairman of the Tibet regional government on Tuesday, said the improvement of farmer and headsmen's lives is the top priority for his government.

"We will uphold the guideline of serving the people wholeheartedly, exercising power for the people, showing concern for them and working for their interests," said the official when meeting with journalists after the re-election.

Great changes have taken place in Tibet in the past decades, he said. However, it remains the most underdeveloped area in the country and "development is the prerequisite and key to solving all the problems in Tibet," he added.

"We will take a clear stand against secession and unswervingly serve for national unity," he said.

Qiangba Puncog, born in 1947 of Tibetan nationality, has been in the post of regional government chairman since 2003.

Tibet plans to provide housing for 52,000 farmers and herders this year, as part of the project beginning from 2006 to build homes for 220,000 households. The project, once finished, would mean housing for 80 percent of the region's farmers and herders by the end of 2010.

During the past two years, the regional government spent more than 1.3 billion yuan (US$179 million) to help farmers move into brick houses from wood-and-earth residences, and to help nomadic herders settle down.

To date, 570,000 farmers and herders from 112,000 households have taken part in the project. The per capita housing area in Tibet has reached 36.4 square meters against 16.8 sq. m. before the project.

Qiangba Puncog has said on the sidelines of the legislative session that the regional government would spend 50 million yuan in training 130,000 farmers and herders this year to help them find jobs more easily.

The region has a surplus labor force of 450,000 farmers and headsmen. However, lack of skills has hindered their employment, the official said.

More than 60 percent of the 450,000 people barely finished primary schools or are even illiterate, while 90 percent have not vocational skills at all.

The region trained 120,000 farmers and herdsmen last year in electrical engineering, construction, handicraft, weaving and other skills.

Last year, the Tibet regional government built 9,616 kilometers of highways in the rural areas and enabled 848 villages to have access to highways. It supplied electricity for about 180,000 people who had not had access to power or suffered from shortages. It also provided safe drinking water for 332,800 people.

(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2008)

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