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Multi-billion-dollar Infrastructure Projects Uneviled

China's government on Wednesday announced a slew of measures, including approval of infrastructure projects and a further rise in export rebates, in a wide-ranging attempt to stimulate the economy and stave off the effects of the global financial crisis.

The State Council, or cabinet, approved projects with a combined investment of more than 200 billion yuan (US$29 billion), designed to help boost domestic demand and offset slowing exports.

At executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, State Councilors agreed to raise export rebates on more than 3,700 items-- mainly labor-intensive, mechanical and electrical products and other items vulnerable to weakening overseas demand -- from next month, the third such move in the second half.

The infrastructure projects included a gas pipeline from the northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to the southern economic hubs of Guangzhou and Hong Kong, at an investment of 93 billion yuan.

State Councilors also approved the building of the Guangdong Yangjiang nuclear power plant and the expansion of the Zhejiang Qinshan nuclear power plant at a combined cost of 95.5 billion yuan.

Another 17.4 billion yuan would go to water conservancy projects in regions of Xinjiang, Guizhou and Jiangxi and civil airports in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and east China's Anhui Province.

The 300-billion-yuan reconstruction central government fund dedicated to 51 hard-hit areas in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces would provide the main financing for the May 12 quake zone.

The forestry industry, ravaged by the severe winter weather at the start of the year and the earthquake, would receive support for restoration by 2010. "Proper subsidies" would be given to forestry workers to help rebuild their damaged homes.

Councilors called for "protective prices" on the purchase of damaged bamboo and lumber and urged financial institutions to give favorable support or write off bad loans due to disasters in the sector.

The measures followed a massive stimulus package worth 4 trillion yuan (US$570 billion) unveiled on Sunday.

China's economy slowed sharply in the third quarter because of slowing exports and investment growth. Gross domestic product was up 9 percent from the same period last year, compared with 10.1 percent in the second quarter and 10.6 percent in the first quarter.

The package would finance programs over the next two years in 10 major areas, including affordable housing, rural infrastructure, water, electricity, transport, the environment, technological innovation and rebuilding after disasters, most notably the May 12 earthquake.

(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2008)

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