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Quality Key to Post-quake Rebuilding

The government insisted on Tuesday that the highest standards will be maintained in the reconstruction of public buildings - including schools and hospitals - destroyed by the May 12 earthquake.

The pledge was made as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) published and invited public comments on a draft program on the rebuilding of quake-hit areas, an effort that will requires a total investment of 1 trillion yuan (US$147 billion).

"We need to listen to ideas and suggestions from both home and abroad," said a spokesman for the NDRC, which was responsible for drafting the program.

According to the program, about 3,400 primary schools should be rebuilt in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.

Part of the funds will also be used to improve the safety standards of a further 2,600 schools.

"We need to strictly implement construction standards when building public facilities, particularly schools and hospitals," stated the draft program.

The government said there will be no large-scale relocation of residents from the quake zone, while estimating that it needs to pump about 1 trillion yuan into reconstruction efforts. The investment roughly equals one twenty-fifth of China's economic output this month and the total GDP of Sichuan Province last year.

The 150-km-long urban corridor in Sichuan Province will be expanded to encourage people made homeless by the quake to move to the Chengdu-Deyang-Mianyang urban area, which generated about 40 percent of the province's economy before the quake.

The government pledged to provide quake victims with housing, jobs, equal access to social security, an improved infrastructure and a clean environment.

Although the draft program did not set any specific deadlines for these tasks, the central government previously stated that efforts to overcome the impact of the quake should take eight years.

The program did not state which county townships should be relocated, but a decision has already been made to relocate Beichuan Qiang Minority Autonomous County.

The draft program also highlighted a number of other important tasks:

In rural areas, more than 3 million households need new homes; and in cities, about 860,000 apartments should be reconstructed.

The government should try to create employment for 1 million people.

Efforts should be made to provide housing, infrastructure and basic services to the 1.4 million farmers put into absolute poverty as a result of the quake.

(China Daily August 13, 2008)

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