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China to Allocate 70 Bln Yuan for Reconstruction

Premier Wen Jiabao announced on Wednesday the central government will allocate 70 billion yuan (US$10.14 billion) this year for a reconstruction fund for the quake-hit regions.

He also pledged to arrange funds for the reconstruction over the next two years. He admitted the devastating earthquake had caused huge losses in quake-hit regions and said reconstruction would be an arduous task.

He called for the organization of a special group to draw up a reconstruction plan as soon as possible.

"While making the reconstruction plan, we must fully consider the geological conditions and bearing capability of the natural resources and environment of these regions to strike a balance between urban and rural areas, industrial and agricultural production," he stressed.

He announced that the central government's spending will be slashed by 5 percent this year to fund quake relief efforts.

He ordered government organizations and public institutions at all levels to decrease their spending on meetings and business travel and freeze the approval of any new office buildings for government bodies.

He called the public to practice a frugal lifestyle to support the reconstruction of quake-stricken areas.

"At present, rescue and relief operations are still the top priority," he said. He urged the rescuers to try their best to evacuate stranded survivors and transfer those severely injured to better hospitals.

He said the central government will allocate 25 billion yuan for rescue and relief efforts in quake-hit regions.

At the meeting, Wen and other participants also analyzed China's economic situation.

He said May 12 earthquake had added new uncertainty to the outlook for the economy but the fundamentals remained unchanged.

"On the one hand, we must continue our rescue and relief efforts; on the other, we must promote the sound and rapid development of society and the economy," he said.

"We will curb too fast price hikes, strengthen supervision of the prices of key commodities and punish unscrupulous merchants making profits through hoarding and speculation," he said.

"We have the determination, the confidence and the capability to overcome all difficulties and obstacles," he said. "We will resolutely strike out at the two tasks of winning the earthquake rescue and relief battle, and advancing the sound and rapid development of society and the economy," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2008)

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