A number of grassroots policy consultants, including a rural teacher and a pig farmer, were excited to hear their proposals announced in Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's government report on Wednesday.
Yang Yingchuan, a teacher from the mountainous Eryuan County in southwestern Yunnan Province, and Lu Guoliang, farmer in the central Hunan Province, were among 12 grassroots citizens who met with Wen at Zhongnanhai, the compound of the country's top leaders in Beijing, in January to give their opinions on government policies.
"Premier Wen's voice delivering the government report is still resonating in my ears," Yang said.
In his report at the parliament annual session, Wen received warm applause when he promised the government allocation for education would increase from 107.6 billion yuan (US$15.13 billion) in 2007 to 156.2 billion yuan this year. He also urged local governments to increase education spending.
"I told the premier about such problems as low payments for rural teachers and he responded to them in the report," Yang said.
Wen stressed the government must improve the quality of teachers, "especially in rural areas, and improve and implement the system of wages, allowances and subsidies for teachers".
The words sounded familiar to Yang. He had used the valuable chance of speaking with Wen to express the urgency to improve the quality of rural teachers, whose education levels were relatively low, the same as their income.
"I told the premier that farmers nowadays want their children to receive quality education. But more and more rural teachers are leaving the countryside for higher pay in well-off townships or cities."
The 35-year-old has spent 14 years teaching rural middle-schoolchildren in the poverty stricken mountainous area.
"I have deeply felt the instability of rural education staff due to low income and a poor living and working environment," he said.
"Premier Wen's words have ensured my confidence in staying in my job for a better prospect of rural education," said Yang, who watched Wen's speech on TV and checked the text version on the Internet.
It was the second time Wen had invited grassroots deputies to Beijing for their opinions and proposals. Prior to the annual session last year, he also met with 12 ordinary citizen deputies.
Previously, the government's policy consultation had been mainly from top think-tanks of professionals, scholars and industry elites. The voice of grassroots citizens from across the country had not much been directly heard by senior officials.
Neighbors in farmer Lu's village of Qingzhu crowded into his house to watch the live TV broadcast of Wen's speech on Wednesday. They were concerned whether Lu had successfully voiced their concerns in pig raising to the premier earlier this year.
"Premier Wen answered what I proposed in the report," said Lu proudly as his fellow villagers applauded the report, despite knowing the premier could neither see nor hear their joy.
"I told the premier that with the continuous rise in pork prices, pig farmers worried whether they would continue to receive government subsidies for raising livestock. The subsidies are still a major incentive for farmers to raise pigs."
The premier said specifically in his report the government would conscientiously implement policies and measures to boost pig production, dairy farming and oilseed production.
Lu also noticed Wen promised to vigorously extend the scope of agricultural insurance.
"Such insurance can help resolve farmers' biggest scares for investing in animal husbandry."
Over 500 pigs in Lu's village died in the winter snow disaster, the worst weather in 50 years. Only seven sowing pigs were insured. Owners could get 1,000 yuan in compensation for losing each insured sow.
Wen's interaction with the grassroots in making a policy address has not only won him more credits with the common folk, it has also made his government policy guidelines more pragmatic, said Wang Bin, rector of People's Hospital under the Beijing University, also among the grassroots deputies to meet the premier.
(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2008)