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China Urged to Accelerate Public Services Provision to Fuel Consumption

China should accelerate the equal provision of basic public services for all citizens, which is expected to have a big impact on sustained economic growth amid the global downturn, said a United Nations-sponsored report released on Sunday.

Equalization of basic public services for both urban and rural residents is an important condition for expanding domestic demand and maintaining steady and rapid economic growth while reducing the dependence of economic growth on material investment, said Chi Fulin, chief author of the "China Human Development Report" at a meeting to mark its release.

"The government's agenda places priority on providing basic services, and its fast-paced actions to do so will go a long way to ease the challenges at home and abroad from the financial crisis and economic slowdown," said Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator in China.

"With budget revenues higher than 20 percent of GDP, with a high national savings rate and with US$2 trillion in official reserves, China should now has the resources to make equitable provision of key public services to all China's people a reality." he said.

"China's consumption rate dropped from 62.3 percent in 2000 to49 percent in 2007. One of the most important reason is the inadequate provision of basic public services, which has led up to instable consumption expectations of urban and rural residents and reduced marginal consumption tendency", said Chin Fulin.

The report, compiled by researchers of China Institute for Reform and Development and other think-tanks, pointed out the comprehensive institution and policy reforms were essential for China to provide its people with access to improved health service, education, social security and public employment services.

The equal spreading of public services would narrow down development gaps between urban and rural areas across regions and between the rich and the poor to promote social equality, justice and harmonization, said Chi.

The report offers nine specific policy recommendations to help China to reduce gaps in basic public services and improve lives of rural and other vulnerable populations. The center of the suggestions is the right of all Chinese citizens to a clearly defined set of basic public services framed by common standards.

Chi noted at a press conference after the meeting that the inadequate public service system made the country's vast rural areas lag behind in public service provision, although that was improved greatly in the urban areas.

"Without strong action, the great gaps in basic public services and the disparities in human capital that they engender may create permanent divisions that are difficult to reverse." said the report.

"The accountability of government officials to the equalization of basic public service targets must be strengthened, by giving service indicators a prominent place in performance evaluations." said the report.

The report was released one day after Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the G20 summit in Washington this weekend. "Steady and relatively fast growth in China is in itself an important contribution to international financial stability and world economic growth." the President said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 17, 2008)

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